Book Group review 25 April 2017

By Jane Wilson


‘The Absolutist’ by John Boyne was our first book recommendation, a deceptively simple read that covers such varied themes such as love and friendship, courage, denial of feelings, conscientious objections to war and resolving past life decisions many decades later. Told in the present day as well as flashbacks in his life, Tristan Sadler recounts his life as a soldier in the Great War, his friendship with a fellow soldier and his post war attempts to reconcile his war time experiences.

We returned to a previous book choice, with another group member choosing to recommend ‘In Parenthesis’ by David Jones. We listened to a couple of extracts read from the book, illustrating the unusual poetry/prose/conversational style of this epic poem. His writing was influenced by his time as an infantryman. ‘In Parenthesis’ won Jones the Hawthornden Literary Prize in 1938 as well as accolades from other poets such as T S Eliot and W B Yeats.

In Gary Sheffield’s book ‘The Somme’, he covers the Somme experience from the initial military planning to the experiences of the men on the ground who fought in the months of the battle. Sheffield examines the huge loss of life during the campaign, whether the battles were futile, and the controversy surrounding it. We discussed the role of the Pals Regiments in the Somme, and discussed the quote about Pals Regiments that they were ‘two years in the making, ten minutes in the destroying’.

Our last reading suggestion was ‘Gallipoli- The Dardanelles Disaster in Soldiers’ Words and Photographs’ by Richard van Emden and Stephen Chambers.  Fully illustrated with photographs and maps, the book covers views and opinions of the Dardanelles operations from the perspective of British, Anzac, French and Turkish troops. The authors use eyewitness accounts of the landings and fighting, and the book was of particular interest to one of our group members as she had four great uncles who had served at Gallipoli.

We look forward to the book recommendations at our next meeting and always welcome new members to the WW1 Book Group.