on 18 October 2005
'Heroes' by Robert Cormier
This book based on World War Two, and grips you right until the end.
The book begins by telling us about one soldier, Francis Cassavant (the main character), who was badly injured in the war and is receiving treatment in a hospital with lots of other soldiers. Francis an 18-year-old war veteran is returning home to Frenchtown to try to get back to normality and carry on with his life, but as we find out things are not as simple as that and Francis has a reason for going to war in the first place as he is trying to escape a certain past event. Frenchtown got its name as many of the people who live there are French immigrants and we hear of various references throughout the book about France, also many of the characters have French names.
Throughout the book we are told about a place called the 'wreck centre' where Francis spent most of his childhood and met a man called Larry LaSalle who also plays a vital part in the story. Francis went to a convent when he was a child and this is where he met his 'childhood sweetheart' Nicole Renard, who also attended the wreck centre. There are a lot of anecdotes in this book as most of the events discussed happened a long time ago and Francis is just trying to come to terms with them. It is almost as if while he has been at war time has stood still and now that he has returned home he has to put certain unfinished matters to rest and that he does. He revisits certain situations and goes to see certain people to put his mind at rest.
In my opinion this is a very gripping story, which captures even the coldest of hearts. Robert Cormier has an amazing ability to describe in detail certain situations, which creates a great deal of imagery. However, the one fault is that sometimes the story is hard to follow, as one chapter may be completely different from the previous. Overall I would rate this book at 8/10.
on 24 July 2016
This book was the second of my GCSE texts. Given my prior enjoyment of 'Of Mice and Men' and my fondness for war books, I was quite looking forward to reading this, and dived eagerly into it straight away.
However, after that first reading, I came away disappointed- the book was not what I had expected at all.
Young soldier, Francis Cassavant, has just returned to Frenchtown after World War ll horribly maimed and disfigured.
With only the clothes on his back, and gun in his bag, Francis is set on his final mission- to find the man who betrayed him in his youth, and make him pay for what he did.
As the days pass in Frenchtown, Francis lives out the post-war period, reliving the days of his childhood as he waits for the return of another supposed hero.
As I mentioned above, when I first read this novella, I was expecting great things, and ultimately didn't think that I received them. I found myself bored, listless, the story tiresome and the characters flat. However, as is the nature of GCSE texts (and any other English Literature study texts, I should think) it's obligatory to read, re-read, and re-read again. You have to know your texts inside out, back to front, and any which way you can think of. And the more I read it, the more I realised that perhaps I had judged it too hastily. It wasn't bad at all- in fact, it was very, very good.
After a while, I could hardly believe that I had initially found the characters dull. I liked them all, especially Francis. It was told in first person, and whilst I'm aware that many writers employ this literary technique, this felt so personal. I almost felt like an intruder, as I followed all of Francis' separate journeys through different stages in his life, eavesdropping on his private thoughts and feelings, experiencing his self-doubt and rejection. I really sympathised with him, and on several occasions, I just wanted to step through the pages and give him a big hug.
I also really liked Nicole, up until a certain point. She wasn't to blame for what happened, and how she reacted, but her behaviour still irritated me. But, prior to that, she came across as a genuinely kind girl, who was very sweet to Francis.
I even liked Larry, to an extent, if 'like' is the right word. I thought he was an intensely interesting and complex character, and I could never quite make up my minds as to whether I admired him, felt sorry for him, or downright disliked him. Was he a victim or a villain? I am still undecided.
Just like 'Of Mice and Men', I thought that 'Heroes' was very clever, and it became more so to me the more times I read it. It was less the actual content, but the structure that made it so. There was the story of Francis's childhood, and his escapades with Larry and Nicole, his experiences in the war, and finally, his post-war life, hiding from the world and waiting for his enemy to come home.
Each individual story is paced nicely, and all three intertwine, all the pieces coming together to form the picture that is Francis' life.
Despite what I said before about it being the structure rather than the content that contributes to the book's success, I find the themes that are interwoven throughout the story to be very effective, particularly that of heroism and what defines it, war in its many forms, love, and the loss of innocence.
I suppose one of the things that is a deciding factor in which books get to be put on the GCSE line-up is how they are written, and in fact, the rich language used is something that all of my GCSE texts have in common, which I love.
Cormier's writing is beautiful and an important tool in conveying all that he wanted to. The quotes are lovely, and sometimes heartbreaking, but all of them memorable, which is the critical thing when you need them for an exam.
So, all in all, I'd say that, although it is not quite my favourite GCSE text, I do still adore it and I think that everyone should give it a go.
I'd rate this book...
8.5 stars out of 10
on 24 May 2016
This is an unflinching book of lost chances, sorrow and atonement. I picked it up to read in one sitting, as my daughter studied it for GCSE, and I’m glad I did. This is the tale of a soldier returning from war, nursing his injuries, both physical and emotional. On paper he is a hero, inside he feels like a fraud.
The story captivates you from the beginning, taking you on a journey through his injuries and his childhood. A young man lost amid his own lack of confidence, rescued by belief and love. The story moves from present to past and back again as love surfaces through his shy countenance and self-belief burgeons. However, betrayal sends him to war, and it’s only upon his return that he decides to atone, his facial wounds offering him both anonymity and opportunity.
I read Robert Cormier as a teen myself, and he places himself in the mind of his characters perfectly. The shyness of a boy in love epitomised in the sentence ‘The earth paused in its orbit.’ Oh, yes, many of us have been there, and Cormier’s brilliance as a writer throws out some gorgeous prose, some of which brought tears to my eyes.
Who are the real heroes? A short but beautifully satisfying read.