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In The Shade Of A Willow: A Novel of the Great War by [Todhunter, Chris]
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In The Shade Of A Willow: A Novel of the Great War Kindle Edition

4.9 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1433 KB
  • Print Length: 466 pages
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00EF7POC8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #165,153 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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In this centenary year, if you only read one book about the Great War then it should be ‘In the Shade of a Willow’ by Chris Todhunter.
In 1914 Philip Oakley is a young solicitor living in rural Suffolk. The son of the local Rector, Philip is also a junior officer in the London Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. When war is declared, Philip is mobilised. But the Royal Navy has more than enough men for the Fleet, and Philip fears that his chances of seeing action are slim.
However, Winston Churchill (then First Lord of the Admiralty) has other ideas and combines the surplus manpower with the Marine Brigade to form the Royal Naval Division to fight on land.
The story follows Philips progress as the Division takes part briefly in the defence of Antwerp, before moving on to the Gallipoli campaign. There, Philip gets his first taste of trench warfare. He survives the terrible summer heat, and the dysentery epidemic in the Allied trenches, only to endure the gales, blizzards and flooding as winter sets in. After finally being evacuated from Gallipoli, Philip moves on to the Western Front.
The book describes in graphic detail the horrors of the fighting in the Great War, in particular the barbaric hand to hand fighting using the medieval weapons of bayonet and cosh. In contrast, men die in their thousands without ever seeing the face of the enemy – machine gunned to death on the barbed wire. Heavy artillery inflicts horrific injuries and sudden death until finally, at Passchendaele, the battered landscape becomes a mass of mud and water-filled shell holes where wounded men are left to drown in the rising waters.
Meanwhile, in England life goes on.
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I cannot recommend this book more highly. An excellent read which searingly brings home to the reader both the horror and comradeship of the men who fought in WW1 Unlike other books on the land campaigns of that awful war this book follows the activities of the Royal Naval Division, sailors who fought as infantrymen. These sailor/solders fought in most of the major battles of the war from Gallipoli to the Somme. Chris's account of the landing at Gallipoli is harrowing to read. Whilst integrated into the Army system they cling on to their Royal Naval tradition and practises which, at times, their Army hierarchy find very hard to understand. The book is meticulously researched and vividly details the life of the Division. Not just the horrific action but also their daily life at the front. It cleverly weaves the reader into the life of those back home and the changing attitude to the war. Be warned, It is not an easy book to put down once you have started it. This is Chris Todhunter's third book and I cannot wait for his fourth.
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By HP on 13 July 2014
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Captures the atmosphere of the Great War and the class system of the period very well as reflected in other works of the period.

I found the book realistic to the point of being depressing, the futility of it all, lives wasted and the stupidity and callousness of those in charge.

It's not a light read to pass some spare time but it is in its own way compelling
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with some trepidation- but this is indeed a remarkable book and I highly recommend it! The research is impeccable and as one who has a great interest in WW1 and has read many books on the subject- I did not have an in depth knowledge of the RND- but now am eager to find out more about that remarkable band of sailor/soldiers.
I could not put it down - I was particularly moved by the piece quoted at the end of chapter 4 written by a Captain P.J. Campbell RFA - it was very poignant and summed up the tragic losses of the war to end all wars.
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I read a lot of these type of books and very rarely do I give 5 stars. This was a fantastic book! The language was at times beautiful and evocative which superbly reflected the environment, but it was also a gritty, gutsy book which at times was real 'boys own' stuff and then reverted back to a sensitive well written story about people and their lives. However - more importantly for me - it was extremely well researched and accurate. I am and ex soldier and there is nothing I hate more (see my other reviews) than incorrect military etiquette, wrong use of ranks, decorations or military language. This book was near perfect in that regard. Whilst it accurately told the story of the great war from start to finish it was also a story showing the gradual de-humanization and tragedy of the lead character then leading to ------- actually I won't spoil it. We really cared about this man. It was also not one of the endless stream of historical novels which are written from a commercial perspective where completion of the book leads you to buy the next in the series (often 8 months away so by the time it comes out you have forgotten what the previous one was about). This was a stand alone story in its own right. The only slight issue I would have is that the proof reading missed a few typos and incorrect or omitted words, but this did not detract enough to jeopardize a star. A great book - thank you Mr (I assume Mr) Todhunter look forward to reading your next tome!
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