In a house on the Cape "older than the Republic", Robert MacIver, a historian who long ago played rugby for Scotland, creates a list of rules by which to live out his last days. The most important rule, to "tell a story to its end", spurs the old Scot on to invent a strange and gripping tale of men in the trenches of the First World War.
Drawn from a depth of knowledge and imagination, MacIver conjures the implacable, clear-sighted artist Private Callum; the private's nemesis Sergeant Braddis, with his pincerlike nails; Lieutenant Simon Dodds, who takes on Braddis; and Private Charlie Alston, who is ensnared in this story of inhumanity and betrayal but brings it to a close.
This invented tale of the Great War prompts MacIver's own memories of his role in World War II and of Vietnam, where his son, David served. Both the stories and the memories alike are lit by the vivid presence of Margaret, his wife. As Hearts and Minds director Peter Davis writes, "Pouncey has wrought an almost inconceivable amount of beauty from pain, loss, and war, and I think he has been able to do this because every page is imbued with the love story at the heart of his astonishing novel."
"Although mortality is its central theme, this gracefully written novel is never depressing. With its expansive scope--war, work, love, loss--it is instead a beautiful testament to one man's resilient spirit." (Booklist)
"Begun in 1981, this slender, unpretentious, lyrical, and deeply moving novel by the president emeritus of Amherst College was more than two decades in the making....Pouncey's first book is proof that sometimes greatness comes slowly and in small packages." (Publishers Weekly)
My husband and I listened to this on a road trip. We weren't sure at first whether it was our kind of book, but it grabbed us and took hold with a story within a story. We didn't want it to end.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
This is a difficult book for me to review, and I waffled back and forth between three and four stars. It is really three and a half stars.
As another review I read stated, it was quite a "masculine" type of book--I agree. It could be called a character study of a sick and grieving old man, waiting to die. He lives alone after the death of his beloved wife and realizes he needs to make up some rules for the remainder of his life to prevent himself from wallowing in self-pity. He decides to write a fictional story of a group of soldiers in World War 1, all the while reminiscing of his own past life.
This is not a happy, uplifting story at any point. Yet is fascinated me and kept my interest all the way through. It is beautifully written. I even had a tear or two in my eyes at the end. It is not a story for everyone and you must choose for yourself whether you want to experience it.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Great book. Extremely well-written and well-read. Very original. A truly gripping WWI story within the story of a a very interesting man's life. A much more masculine book than I expected. Loaded with symbolism, and psychological insight, but also surprises and plot twists. Easy to listen to, but also worth spending time with. Altogether one heck of a book. For me the kind of book that makes you think, why can't more books be this good. There is so much out there that is not very good, or contains part that are good and a bunch of filler or poorly done material. This one does it all well beginning to end with loads of originality.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Three stories in one. Helps covers the mixed emotions and explores lost, guilt, anger and decisions outcomes from different perspectives. The stories on there own don't amount to much, but together they work effectively. Simon Vance does an excellent job narrating this book and his accents are quite good, but it would take an Briton to really judge.
I liked the book and think it is worth listening to for some light drama.