If you are going to read one book about the First World War this year (and this is the year to do it!) - then READ THIS ONE! Okay, so it may read a bit like an episode of 'Who Do You Think You Are'. You know the programme: you start with some minor celeb that you know and love - and an hour later you discover that you really don't care about their Great Great Great Great Uncle and can't get too upset to find that they are dead. In contrast with Geordie's War - you start with someone you probably don't know and end up really caring about three generations of Dads. And I suspect it may hold a mirror up to your own life and the relationships you have with your nearest and dearest ancestors. What did your (great)-grandfather do in the war - and have you ever actually asked him about it? Geordie's War is very, very readable. Alan Richardson is an accomplished and experienced wordsmith. It was rather TOO readable, and I shot through it faster than I had meant to; but I can always re-read it after I have lent it to all my family and friends... The book is packed with clever, witty and well written observations of what should really be uninteresting trivialities of someone else's genealogy. But Alan makes it relevant and entertaining; it is like being forced to sit through someone's holiday photos - and finding that you are enjoying them more than you enjoyed your own holiday! I haven't mentioned the War yet. There will be numerous books published this year to 'celebrate' the start of the Great War. And most will revel in descriptions of the gory details - or provide insightful panoramas on the socio-historical causes and effects... Geordie's War doesn't do that - it gives the Working Man's Guide to the whys and wherefores. Why did the common solders not mutiny after the first dreadful day of the Somme? Why did thousands of veterans mourn at Haig's funeral? It answers all those questions about the war that hadn't occurred to you to ask. And - unless you are a native speaker like me - you will learn a lot of colourful new phrases in Geordie to add to your everyday vocabulary!
Alan Richardson is a born storyteller, and of his stories this one is no exception. Whether you knew nothing about WWI or have read extensively about the subject, you will benefit equally well from this account. In this biographical account of his Granddad's service in World War I he has adopted a conversational tone which lies easy upon the ear. Quite quickly the reader is drawn into events as they occur. There are several threads to the story which he skilfully draws out as the story progresses. He intersperses the story with 'very real' snippets of conversation, taking place in his head, with his dead father. It is something we all do, when seeking the approval of long dead parents. To me, one main thread which comes through strongly, is the camaraderie and humour which the Tommies brought with them from civilian life, which survived and strengthened throughout the conflict, to carry on as a privately shared experience after the war was over. They had left their families and loved ones as young men, full of hope (and maybe, even exuberance), but those who returned were all changed men. Some never spoke of their war; but others never ceased speaking of it: but all re-lived it for the rest of their days. The mental scarring and the years of separation wrought a heavy toll on relationships and family life, with long lasting results. Alan brings this out vividly in one of his 'conversations' with his dad (page 147). This same experience must have been repeated in countless households throughout the country. This one 'conversation' alone underlines his ability as a story teller, in those few choice lines the reader may discover: 'that's how it was in our family”. The best compliment I can pay Alan is this: Your grandfather's story was also my father's story, but I didn't listen then and wished I had. You have helped to remedy the defect – thanks.
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I've had this book sitting in my to read tray since it was first published and took it with me on a recent trip to France.
The horrors of WW1 have always frightened me and I had never really wanted to know too much about it but with the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme approaching I felt I should know more.
Having read the Forward by Sting I then entered the first Chapter and was immediately engrossed in the book with references about Evans fish restaurant in Bath and the constant referral to Alan's Grandfathers pocket watch.
I cannot praise this book highly enough and would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about all those forgotten soldiers and the horrors of War in general.
Alan Richardson is an excellent writer and this book is is no exception. Whether you know nothing about WWI or have read extensively about the subject this is a MUST READ
I have no interest in the Great War. I have no interest in Geordies, or their Fusiliers, or their damned football team. Nor do I have the least bit interest in the range and accuracy of the Short Magazine Lee Enfield rifle they used, the type of underpants they wore in the trenches, or their dreary anthems. Yet somehow I found Geordie’s War totally engrossing. Richardson’s necessary use of detail doesn’t detract from the very powerful narrative which shows how the darkness and devastation of those times has impacted even on us – even a Cockney like me - a century later. Not so much a history, more a memoir for us all.
"A very poignant book about an everyman soldier’s experiences during WW1 and how they have resonated down the generations. I would recommend this book particularly to the baby-boomer (what a terrible term) generation, as they will be able too empathies most readily with the heart and soul of this story".
Alan Richardson has written about his Grandfather, and what he did in The Great War. He has delved into the thinking of the time, the background that Geordie came from, and has brought the man and time period alive.
He has also looked at the links through the generations of a family and how each 'Dad' was affected by the experience of the war and social circumstances and how it all impacted on the different generations of the Richardson clan.
A fascinating book, which is well written, with Alan Richardson's characteristic humour and individuality. Well worth a read if you wish to understand more about the 1914-18 war, and more besides.
To my surprise Geordie's War turned out to be more than just a dry, historical overview of the First World War from a Northumbrian perspective. It was written on several levels, using an unassuming prose style shot through with laugh-out-loud humour, unexpected insights and narrative pace. Sting was right in his Foreword when he said that the main character, Wor Geordie, was used as an Everyman figure with whom we could all relate. The first chapter, called Dad's Watch, was heart-stopping. By the second chapter I began to feel that it was my grandfather being written about. And by the end of this beautifully written book I wanted to cry.