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The Quick and the Dead: Fallen Soldiers and Their Families in the Great War Hardcover – 3 Oct 2011

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The Quick and the Dead: Fallen Soldiers and Their Families in the Great War + Tommy's War: The Western Front in Soldiers' Words and Photographs + The Soldier's War: The Great War Through Veterans' Eyes
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; 1st Edition edition (3 Oct. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747597790
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747597797
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 3.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 365,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

Praise for 'The Soldier's War'

'Thousands of books have been written about the Great War, but perhaps none so vividly evocative as The Soldier's War ... an extraordinary homage to a lost generation' (Daily Mail)

'In The Soldier's War, Richard van Emden has toiled in archives and hunted down caches of letters to tell the story of the war chronologically through the eyes of the Tommies who fought it' (The Times)

'Not the least remarkable aspect of Van Emden's trawl through the memories of these survivors is that they are accompanied by around 100 unpublished photos ... Since original images from the war's sharp end are rarities, these pictures - blurred and fuzzy though many of them are - are themselves worth the price of the book' (Literary Review)

Book Description

There have been many books on the soldiers who fought and died in the First World War - The Quick and the Dead is the first history of the wives and children who were left behind.

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Customer Reviews

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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Peter Hart on 3 Nov. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Operational Great War historians may flinch away from books that focus on the trauma and suffering caused by the war. But their analytical work is undermined without an understanding and acceptance of the shock wave that ripples out from the dead soldier at the front to encompass his whole family back at home. An impact that in its longevity far outlasts the momentary agony and oblivion experienced by the dead themselves. This intriguingly titled book embraces the study of that prolonged anguish head-on.

Richard van Emden looks at the war through a cast of characters which encompass the doomed soldiers and their hapless families. We follow them throughout the war: enlistment and separation, the precious periods of leave, the struggle to survive in reduced circumstances without a man in the house, the catastrophic news of death and the efforts to come terms with that loss. Many of the stories are moving as evinced by this sad account of how Lucy Neale was parted from her father as he returned to the front from leave.

"It was a ten-minute walk, I suppose, but we didn't hurry, we just I walked slowly up the hill and I really can't remember what we talked about. I held on to his hand so tight, and when we got to the top, he said, "I won't take you any further, you must go back now, and I'll stand here and watch you until you're out of sight," and he put his arms round me and held me so close to him; I remember feeling how rough that khaki uniform was. "You must go now, wave to me at the bottom, won't you?" I went, I left him standing there and I went down the hill and I kept looking back and waving and he was still there, just standing there.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Suzy H on 3 Nov. 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Quick and the Dead looks at the desperate plight of soldiers in France and simultaneously, the struggle of the families at home, which to my knowledge hasn't been written about before. The book describes what it meant to be a soldier separated from his family, wondering whether they would ever see them again. At the same time their wives struggling under the enormous burden of trying to hold a family together, while always fearing that knock on the door and the telegram that their husband had died.

What makes this book are the interviews with the last children of those who fell in action. Emden has interviewed perhaps two dozen children and their stories are heartbreaking. There is an interview with Clara Whitfield, who is aged 104, speaking of the work she had to undertake after the death of her father, the old hands she had as a ten year old scrubbing floors to supplement the family income. Her last words, 'Life! I could tell you something but I won't bore you with my tears', brought a lump to my throat.

The book delves into areas I knew nothing about. There are the fraudsters preying on the desperation of families, promising to find missing men in return for money, and the families themselves, distraught that their loved ones would remian overseas and who took it upon themselves to go and dig up their relatives in the hope of smuggling them home.

For me it is the living testimony that is so gripping, the tragedy of war brought home and the lives of the children who had to suddenly grow up. The loss never goes away. 'Thank you for the five years of happiness,' wrote one 98 year old on a wreath to her father, 'I have missed you all my life'.

I loved this book and would definitely recomend it.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By miss marple on 15 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I cannot recommend this book highly enough,it should be read in every secondary school.The massive impact the great war had on families back home is brought to life from the letters and memories within.
It is very hard emotionally to read,but for me, it really opened up the reality of the loss, the fear , the dread and hopelessness of the soldiers and their families and the situation they were thrown into in such a war.It is a heartbreaking but essential read.These men and their families ,who sacrificed so much, must never be forgotten.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By tipperary on 17 April 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I romped through this book, gripped by it. Drawn from interviews, letters and diaries, it gives an insight into the impact of the Great War on soldiers and families, their grief and stoicism as well as the sheer enormity of the conflict undertaking from the basics - the peacetime order for boots was 245,000 pairs; in the autumn of 1914 the army looked for 6.5 million - to the return of the dead's belongings. Fascinating and swallowingly moving.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By J P Wright on 7 Nov. 2011
Format: Hardcover
The immediate horrors of war are clear for all to see. During the Great War, this was more evident than ever before as millions of men paid the ultimate price for fighting for their country and a cause they believed in.

What isn't so immediately obvious are the tragic consequences for those left behind whose lives would never be the same again. This aspect of the War is often overlooked but the implications on the families and communities affected would change the country forever.

In this fascinating book, Richard Van Emden tells the stories of those who were left to cope with the loss of their closest family members; husbands, fathers, brothers and sons were all casualties of the war to end all wars and their loss would be felt by relatives for the rest of their lives.

This is a heart wrenching book and will often leave you extremely touched by the memories of the family members interviewed. This is immediately felt in the book's introduction where Lily Baron remembers her father who she lost at the age of five. Upon visiting his resting place, Lily leaves a wreath and a card saying 'Thank you for five years of real happiness - I've missed you all my life.' It's at this point you swallow hard and the real, incredibly personal, impact of the war becomes even clearer.

There are many similar stories contained and each make for fascinating reading. In an unexpected, but in hindsight obvious contrast, the book also tells the stories of the men whose families were happier without them.

The Quick and the Dead then moves on to the efforts by families to have their relatives brought home for burial and to be commemorated on memorials.
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