Enjoyed reading this little book. What a find ! Wish I could find an old diary, shame the wtriter did not put his name to his work, but then he was fighting in one of the worst wars WW1. This Soldier speaks for all Soldiers. Cannot help but apeal to the heart. Nice addition of cartoon style drawings adds to atmosphere. I read this in one sitting to keep the mood. Recommend for anyone with an interest in history, war or diaries in general. Arrived within week of ordering, well packed. Highly recommend just for a read or to add to historic reference.
The premise of this book seemed really interesting - the fortunate discovery of a French solder's diary rescued by the artist as it was about to be discarded was interesting enough to pique the interest whereas the First World War is fertile ground for the creative imagination.
Anyone who has an interest in World War One and French graphic novels will probably already be aware of Jacques Tardi's "It was the war of the trenches" and "Goddam the war!" (The English language version of the latter rejecting the literal translation of the latter's original title.) If you are familiar with Tardi's classic graphic books then "The line of fire" may seem a little under-whelming. Tardi does not flinch from the obscene horror of war and based his drawings upon photographs of the Great War. In addition, Tardi's work is unforgivably left wing in tone and perhaps even anti-establishment. Tardi also had the advantage that one of the books is a narrative history of the conflict and the latter a series of short stories recounted to him by veterans. By contrast, Barroux has been restricted by the contents of the diary. Fascinating as it is as a historical document, the diary is ultimately the one element which makes it difficult for me to award five stars this book. notwithstanding the fact that the diary ends almost in mid-air, it is fair to say that not a lot actually happens. The pictures illustrate how this unknown soldier reported to his muster, the continuous journeys by train, the endless marching and the need to find food and shelter. What passes for an ending recounts an injury by a stray bullet in what can only loosely be described as an encounter.
The illustrations are quirky and have a naïve quality that I find extremely appealing. Drawn as crayon outlines with an idiosyncratic approach to shading, it is fair to say that Barroux's illustrations are quite effective and have an air of melancholy about them that you imagine would appeal to children. That said, the reference to prostitutes and body parts suspended from trees in two of the panels make this book unsuitable for young children. The approach is far "softer" than the one taken by Tardi whose approach is perhaps too nihilistic.
With the anniversary of the Great War now represented in a number of books, films and other art forms, it is far to say that the fact the diary covers a period of little more than a month from 3rd August 1914 means that the book does not cover the more familiar aspects of the conflict even in relation to what happened in 1914. Therefore the tone does not reflect the war-weary view that became evident after Verdun in 1916. As a historical document, we should be glad that Barroux managed to rescue this particular "story" from oblivion yet there are other books which would be my first point of call in wanting to read a first hand account of this war including the excellent "Les paroles des poilus" mentioned in Michael Morpurgo's preface.
It's amazing that this is true: a man, Barroux, happened to spot rubbish being thrown out of a house for clearing. In that pile was a diary from World War I. Stunning isn't it?
And this book is that diary. Barroux's childlike pictures for me capture the anonymous soldier's innocent outlook as he signs up and heads out to the coming war. The soldier's words are sparse - he's not a Wilfred Owen - but you constantly feel what he was feeling. And that is mainly exhaustion. He describes his marches, night watches, seeing victims of war fleeing. And this soldier is tired. You also see the war coming ever closer to him. First the rumour of it. Then the sound. Then evidence of bullet holes and women and children, to dismembered limbs and bombed-out towns and finally to conflict.
Through very few words we see war made real for an ordinary married man, who wants rest and home.
It's moving in its slightness.
Meant as a children's book and introduced by Michael Morpurgo it could be read by a confident 9+ year old, though I would warn parents/ teachers of a couple of disturbing images and one mention of "ladies of ill repute".
Could be used for school topics on WWI.
The end, so abrupt as its author left off writing does leave you wondering just what happened. As it should...
There are lots of different books around about WW1 at the moment, but this is really special. Barroux apparently came across the diary of a soldier from the war, completely by chance, and has illustrated the man's words in sepia pen and ink in this graphic novel. The result is extraordinary - the man's words speak to us very clearly, and the illustrations add an intensity of emotion that's missing from his very matter of fact diary entries. Beautiful to look at, and an extraordinary testament to the experiences of ordinary men in the war. I can't recommend this highly enough.