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The Last Voice,
This review is from: The Last Fighting Tommy: The Life of Harry Patch, the Only Surviving Veteran of the Trenches (Hardcover)
In many respects Harry Patch is an unremarkable man - after all he has probably lived more quiet and uneventful years than any of us ever will. Even the terrible fate that befell the 19 year old Harry was shared by millions of other soldiers. But then of course Harry is the last of them, and after eighty years of hiding his grief, he has reluctantly and finally told of his experiences, almost as a catharsis and a tribute to his comrades who never returned and whom he still misses.
Richard Van Emden has written the book perfectly, by ensuring that we see Harry as an ordinary man, not as a solder, and the first section of the book is Cider with Rosie revisited and set in the Mendips. When Harry tells his war tale, Van Emden gently and unobtrusively informs Harry's incredibly vivid memory with background information, although Harry's mind remains remarkably sharp. Moreover, Paschendaele is not the climax of the book, but rightly kept in its chronological place so we, like Harry sense its horror receding but never quite disappearing. Mr Patch comes across as a feisty but chivalrous man,with a stubborn streak that has probably helped to carry him to his 110th year. I read this book partly to learn about Harry, but also as homage to the tragic modesty of a lost generation that now has no other voice but his, and I was not disappointed.