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2.0 out of 5 stars Meh..., 23 Sep 2014
This review is from: The Wars (Paperback)
I wasn't as keen on this as the other (3*) reviewer. I feel that the credibility of the writing is somewhat patchy. Some passages are well written with the clever inclusion of small details that add authenticity and immediacy, but other times this comes accross as trying too hard, almost showing off.
The young protagonist's progress from raw recruit to seasoned field officer is competently drawn but not especially memorable and he never really came to life for me, which I found equally true of the other characters.
Something else I disliked was the way in which the author uses the appalling injuries sustained by some of the characters as a way of encapsulating and emphasising the horrors of war. This is of course a common literary device and can be very effective (Born On The Fourth Of July, Johnny Got His Gun etc) but in Findley's novel, for some reason, it feels like it's done simply for shock value. This is especially true of an incongruous rape scene later in the novel which comes across as not only completely gratuitous but also utterly bizarre, not least because the victim appears to have forgotten all about the ordeal literally minutes afterwards! I suppose this may just possibly be a deliberate attempt by the author to suggest that, to those surrounded by the horror and carnage of war, personal violation is comparirively unimportant. Or perhaps the reader is meant to believe that the attack was imagined by the victim, or that memory of it was suppressed, which then contributes to later apparent mental instability. But it certainly doesn't read that way and I realized at this point that I'd been becoming increasingly disappointed with this book for several chapters.
The ending feels both rushed and contrived,, thus failing to be either moving or convincing. I might allocate 2.5 stars if I could but there are many better examples of the genre available. For example, I highly recommend "Birdsong" by Sebastian Faulkes and - even better - Erich Maria Remarque's "All Quiet On The Western Front".
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well constructed, well written middleweight WW1 novel, 29 May 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Wars (Paperback)
At just over 200 pages, this is a book to be quickly consumed rather than lingered over. It has a fresh narrative form, appearing as research notes from various sources as the life of the central character is revealed.
What Findley does well is to demonstrate the effects of war both on a naive young Canadian officer confronted with the trenches of Ypres at just nineteen, and to a lesser degree the impact on those around him and his family back home. I liked this balanced approach, with a steady progression from "back home" to "at the front", though the writing is at its best as the combat is detailed. The conclusion was also pleasingly original.
Whilst this was an engaging read, the central character is interesting but not sympathetically drawn; he seemed to me to be too aloof for me to identify with him. His loss of innocence is on the whole convincing, with the exception of a couple of sex scenes which seemed gratuitous.
There is not a shortage of WW1 literature; those seeking something that stays with them a while after they have finished the book might also want to consider the Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker, or Verdun by Jules Romains.
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The Wars
The Wars by Timothy Findley (Paperback - 20 Aug 2001)
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