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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars if your reading this...last letters from the front line
A beautifully written and interesting book. Really captures the mood and feelings of those writing their welfare letters to their loved ones. Well worth the purchase and read.
Published on 29 Dec 2011 by apollo

versus
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Half the book it could it have been
The structure of the book is straightforward enough - to each conflict a chapter, each chapter in two sections. The second half of each chapter is where the book works best; a series of short bio's of soldiers, along with lengthy quotes from various letters they wrote. The first section is less satisfactory. Broken down further by sub-headings, such as "A Soldiers Lot:...
Published 13 months ago by Mr M.R.Watkinson


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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars if your reading this...last letters from the front line, 29 Dec 2011
A beautifully written and interesting book. Really captures the mood and feelings of those writing their welfare letters to their loved ones. Well worth the purchase and read.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The more things change...., 3 Feb 2012
By 
Graves (Pennsylvania) - See all my reviews
an amazing compilation of 'last words' from soldiers through the centuries to their loved ones, this is a very powerful book and difficult to read. Not becaue it is poorly done but because the letters, the last wishes and thoughts of soldiers from the Napoleonic wars through the current war in Afghanistan are so powerful that it can only be handled in small doses.

One element that comes through as remarkably similiar through the men regardless of the war natinoality or even level of education is the similarity of the thoughts. Very few get jingoistic about 'gave my life for the cause.' Instead most talk about the hope they have not caused too much pain by their loss or the hope they will be remembered fondly or that their finest momments have been with their family. It is very intimate and one cannot help but feel like an interloper, but at the same time you are grateful for the chance to know, even in a small way, the soldiers who wrote the letters and feel the sense of loss at their untimely deaths.

In the end this is not an easy book to read, but it is a very powerful book, looking at those men in uniform which gave the last full measure of devotion, whom Kipling so well described as "most remarkable like you."
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5.0 out of 5 stars An unexpected pleasure, 5 May 2012
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I ordered this book after hearing about it on a TV interview. It appealed to me as I was researching bereavement reactions. The book surpassed my expectations as the historical references accompanying the letters added to the stories each chapter contained. Don't be put off by the sadness of the letters - it is history and events told incredibly well by those who didn't come home and discovered by the author.
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5.0 out of 5 stars touching, 13 April 2012
I was expecting this book to be a lot of letters from the 1st and 2nd world wars, but it isn't. It goes from Napoleonic wars to present day, and it carries the story behind the conflicts, and then a bit about the individual writer of the letter. The most touching one for me was finding out one of the letter writers was from my town.
The letters are full of worries for the family left behind, and for some a real urge to younger siblings/family members not to follow them into war if they can help it, it really is not all it is cracked up to be. They talk about the conditions they are living in, and what provisions they have made for family. I suppose due to their ages, majority are written to mum.
They are farewell letters/wills.
I really found it quite touching and could not read it all in one go.
Having some background to the conflicts and the individuals was actually, in my opinion, much better than pages and pages of letters.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Half the book it could it have been, 23 July 2013
By 
Mr M.R.Watkinson (Norfolk, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
The structure of the book is straightforward enough - to each conflict a chapter, each chapter in two sections. The second half of each chapter is where the book works best; a series of short bio's of soldiers, along with lengthy quotes from various letters they wrote. The first section is less satisfactory. Broken down further by sub-headings, such as "A Soldiers Lot: Daily Slog & Hardships", facts given are sometimes somewhat random & rather disconnected from their sub-headings, quotes from letters are often only a sentence at a time and/or lack any sort of context or proper explanation. Thus on one page, we are told First Lieutenant Hennah wrote to the widow of George Duff. It is only on the next that we meet Captain George Duff of HMS Mars, presumably the same George Duff & presumably Hennah's Captain!

Unfortunately, whilst the author has a history degree, she is no historian. She has three serious faults that detract considerably from the book. First, she lacks any sort of academic rigour. Apart from the example above, the sub-heading for one bio states "Killed 2nd September 1862", but the text says he was shot on 30th August & died of his wounds the next day! Of another soldier, we are told his parents "had six children - four boys and three girls..." Such basic errors lead one to wonder how may other less glaring errors are hidden in the book (and what her editor was doing!). She is also prone to making absolute statements for which she presents no evidence, which leads me to the next problem.

She appears to have little understanding of, or empathy with, earlier periods of history, and approaches the subject with an entirely modern mind-set. For example, more than once in the early part of the book, she states that, in post-battle letters, the writers were in shock. Apart from the lack of evidence for such statements, it is applying a 21st Century view to an older time. We live in a very sanitised world, where disease has been largely conquered, wars are less & less frequent, and death largely takes place out of sight. Not so 100-200 years ago, when few people would have reached adulthood without having, at the least, a very young or elderly relative die in the same house, or room. Even blood & guts would have been more familiar, as people, even urban folk, were much closer to their sources of food. So would they all have been in partial or total shock? Some may have been; many were almost certainly not - they lived in a much more brutal world. Not having this in mind when writing seems very odd for someone with a history degree. You cannot understand history by learning a bunch of facts; you need to at least try to understand the people that made that history.

Finally, the author appears to be much too emotionally involved in her subject. The most obvious symptom of this is that, whilst she doesn't quite descend to journalistic depths, she is a little too inclined to chuck adjectives around - "profound", "achingly", "foreboding", "moving", "treasured", "mournful", and that's within just the first six paragraphs. The blurb says she is a radio / TV documentary producer & that this book was "inspired" by her R4 doc' of the same title. If her profession is at least one step distant from journalism, it's also more shallow. A journalist can expect a casual reader to at least have a basic interest in their subject matter. The author's programme was, I'd guess, hoping to snare a more casual audience.

Ultimately, whether her faults are unconscious, or deliberate to persuade the mostly uninterested and channel-hoppers to listen, doesn't matter. Her faults aside, she has a readable enough writing style, and the subject matter, if somewhat of a tiny niche, is both worthy & interesting, as well as unusual. For that, 2*; but it could have been a much better book, and deserves attention from someone that can make a better job of presenting it. I can only finish by saying to the other 2* reviewer, as a reader keenly interested in history & war history, I can't offer it a better mark than you have.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful read, 8 July 2012
By 
Ac Sammons - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
A wonderful read and insight into the touching and heartful stories of conflict.

Written to keep the readed engrossed in the human side of conflict. I learnt so much about many instances throughout the years, whilst warming to the personal side .
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars If you are reading this....., 16 Feb 2012
By 
S. Holmes - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I was so looking forward to receiving this book as I had heard so much about it.Unfortunately after having a quick flick through the day it arrived I was somewhat disappointed. Although the author had taken so much time in researching the history behind the conflicts of the periods in which the letters home had been sent, it wasn't what I was expecting. I was hoping for more letters home expressing their personal feelings at the time , instead there were very few letters and too much about the history of the conflicts. Being married to a serviceman I was hoping that it would help me better to understand what they were feeling whilst away and facing the prospect of never returning home to their loved ones. Although I found it unsuitable for my needs a reader who is more into war history may find it more suitable. The book was returned without having read it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 11 Aug 2014
very good book
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting, 7 Feb 2014
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This review is from: If You're Reading This...: Last Letters from the Front Line (Kindle Edition)
It is haunting to read words written with so much love and longing. In a way those who wrote them live on.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read, 5 Feb 2014
I can't quite put across in this review how good this book is. It communicates the individual suffering and scale of conflict better than anything I have ever read.
The letters are incredible and so interesting, and the author adds interesting sections about the conflict, the soldiers and their families.
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