© Sebastion Barry; (P)Oakhill Publishing Ltd
"Barry succeeds admirably in creating complex individuals who find themselves trapped in a brutal reality....Beautiful and soul-wrenching." (Los Angeles Times)
"The story grips, shocks and saddens; but most importantly refuses to be forgotten." (The Times of London)
Having already read Barry's "The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty" and finding it pretentious and verbose, I expected little. Wrong!
This is great stuff on many levels. I was flattened by the realistic description of the battle scenes, the mustard gas, the machine guns etc. but most of all by the courage and bravery of the poor mutts that endured the carnage. Of course, they vaguely thought they were fighting for king and country (Ireland?) - at least at the start - but disillusionment quickly set in. This gradual enlightment is subtlely sketched. A powerful anti-war manifesto with especial relevance to to-day.
Brilliantly read by John Cormack. The language is beautiful and poetic. Upon checking, I discovered that Sebastian Barry has authored several books of poetry...and it shows.
I'm Irish, so know that the historical details are accurate (and conveniently forgotten until very recently) although admittedly the plot itself is contrived to augment the story. No matter.
In summary, a beautiful book which repays some small latitude as it takes time to hit its stride. One of the unexpected bonuses that make life so rewarding.
And here I sit, feeling desolate and sad, because I want more of the same. I want Cormack's narration and Barry's prose. I don't want to leave the camaraderie of the troops in the trenches of Belgium, near Ypres. Isn't it utterly strange that I do not want to leave the battlefields of WW1?! That is the truth of the matter, strange as it may seem.
None of the other books I have read about WW12 have moved me as this has. I believe I understand what that warfare was like. It was horrible. When the war ended, it didn't really end. All who lived through it would never be the same. To understand the war itself you must look further than the blood and bombs and gas and grime and lice and all the physical horror of it. There is still more. There was also what the soldiers shared with each other. This is something very hard to comprehend to those of us who have not fought in wars. This book shows you how the soldiers intimately depended, needed and relied on each other.
I am so shaken by the ending that I don't know what to say. I have no complaints. There is nothing I would change about this book.
How do I sum up my feelings? This book has beautiful lines, and they are lines filled with meaning, imparting a poignant message. This is a book about WW1 and a book about Ireland's place in that war. Excellent writing by Barry. Excellent narration by Cormack!
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