- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: Verso Books (28 Feb. 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1844672301
- ISBN-13: 978-1844672301
- Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 2 x 21.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 504,190 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Casualty Figures: How Five Men Survived the First World War Hardcover – 28 Feb 2008
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"Women's Oppression Today is a book which should be read." International "Women's Oppression Today provides provocative conclusions reached by a mature observer." Library Journal"
About the Author
MICHELE BARRETT is Professor of Modern Literary and Cultural Theory in the School of English and Drama, Queen Mary, University of London. She is the author, among other works, of Women's Oppression Today, The Anti-Social Family, and Politics of Diversity
Top Customer Reviews
The evidence in my study (now held at the Department of Collections Access Library at the Imperial War Museum) shows that Skirth’s account of how he sustained ‘shell-shock’ (a head injury) and his subsequent treatment for it and a ‘nervous breakdown’ are entirely fabricated calling into question Professor Barrett’s research underpinning Skirth’s biography and her decision to include him in her multiple biography.
Skirth’s account of how he sustained ‘shell-shock’ in early November 1917 is given in ‘War Story No.2, Passchendaele’. Apparently he and his best friend, a Scot called ‘Jock Shiels', were attempting to desert when they were caught in enemy shelling. Jock was killed and Skirth knocked unconscious. His treatment for ‘shell-shock’ and a ‘nervous breakdown’ at Abbeville and Schio respectively ensues. Basic checking of his battery’s casualties shows this story is very inaccurate and could not have taken place. John Shiels, the only Scot to die with the battery, died on 18 July 1917 almost four months earlier than Skirth states he died. The only man to die in November 1917 was George Burch - a southerner like Skirth. Skirth makes much of his Scottish pal in his story and, given he was the battery’s only Scottish casualty, “Jock Shiels” cannot be anyone else but John Shiels. The evidence also shows Skirth did not confuse Passchendaele with Messines which, if he had, would invalidate the dates of his treatment at Abbeville and Schio.Read more ›
In essence: this book is very poor, fails to address many of the expected topics, and reads too much like a dry academic text and makes some peculiar 'assumptions' about what modern people might 'expect' people felt nearly a century ago. I felt it a complete waste of effort by the author, and money by me!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
While Barrett's research seems to be thorough and the quotes used do a very good job of bringing her subjects to life, she never does more than report the facts that she has found. Nor does she delve any deeper into the experiences of these men beyond their own eye-witness reports. It would have been very nice to see, perhaps other first-hand accounts from other members of the regiment, or official histories of the battles that Barrett mentions as part of her subject's experiences. There is no way to put what happened to these men into context without this information--was their impression of events colored by their shell-shock? How did other men around them perceive the events? What was the general situation in which they were living? None of these questions are addressed in the book, nor is there ever a sense to put these five men in a wider historic context. They remain individuals, removed from the world in which they lived and still two-dimensional, despite the research that Barrett obviously conducted in order to tell their story. The book is very good and is a very good first step in relating the actual experiences of shell-shock during and after the Great War. However exciting the premise of the book may be, it leaves the reader wanting.
Still, I recommend this book because the stories of these five men deserve to be told and known; it is an important subject, and this is a readable book - just not quite the overall excellent reading experience I hoped for.
Steve Tapee 12/15/08
The text, written by an academic professor, should give clear insights into the experiences and consequences of life at the front, and how this related to 'shell shock'. Unfortunately, the author seems to spend as much time, if not more, giving a background to the battles in which the men were fighting as she does delving into their psychology.
I got the distinct impression the author was so careful to get the historical context correct that the real emphasis - the roots of shell shock - was totally lost.
It all ends-up leaving you asking: 'well, what progress has she made with this book?' It's a real pity, but apart from the occasional snippet of interesting information that you may not have found before, the answer is a resounding 'not very much'. It feels terribly unfocused in many places, and feels like it was written a paragraph at a time, with a few weeks - and lost tracks - before the next one was done.
Disappointing, but probably worth reading.
For me, most critically, four out of the five accounts are from officers' perspectives, which present a more limited picture of what the rank and file, therefore the largest section of shell shock sufferers, would have felt. This is not necessarily the author's fault - one would expect the archives of the Imperial War Museum would contain less written material from the ordinary soldier, it's just the stories did not resonate with me anywhere near the same as say, Richard Van Emden's oral histories from WW1 survivors.
These are potted summaries in effect, of how the war shattered five mens' lives. There is some sympathetic element to the writing, but most of this is reserved for the rather repetitive afterword. Most of the conclusions contained within were already summarised in the chapters, and it smacked again of an essay that had run out of steam. I think it is commendable of the author to write on the subject of shell shock in WW1, but alas, nothing felt new, or made enough of an impact. WW1 is by no means an unpopular subject for writers, and perhaps we are getting to the lamentable stage in literature where material becomes a touch prosaic given the amount out there.
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