1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Not up to par,
This review is from: Flanders (Paperback)Remarque, Manning, Barbusse, more recently: Faulks, Morpurgo and Barker. When the FWW novel is concerned, these are the stablished pick of the basket. Any author/editor should be well aware he sticks his neck out when ranking his work with the above-mentioned.
Flanders (even 'the one' of the Western Front) being our home base, we ventured out to read the homonymous novel, with an eagerness which soon ended in disappointment.
To begin with, intending for her story to gain directness through a combined eyewitness + letter-writing narrative instance, the author apparently bit off more than she could chew. Trying to get across a content dating back 80-odd years ago through a letter-writing protagonist-annex eyewitness is a laudable attempt to boost directness, but unavoidably a letter-writing procedure in itself implies considering things in retrospect. And direct speech, on-the-spot emotion or mental distress just turn out to remain incompatible with this. Ergo: the technique fails to exert the pretended impact; ergo: the reader ends up dissatisfied.
What compounds this drawback is the equally hapless effect of literary motif. A cemetery with a glass roof (the protagonist's existential fears) and the calico girl (his longing for safety) are bleak clichés; their effect, if any, does not exceed the superficiality of their explicitness. Again: read Remarque or Barbusse and mark the bluntness, or Faulks and Barker and let their subdued expression strike your responsive chord.
Likewise, and for her benefit, the author ought to have used understatement: less is more, and any statement by one who 'lived to tell the tale' (read Lyn MacDonald or any collection of first-hand testimonies) will teach one that only suggestion can contribute to making sense of the unwordable and unthinkable.