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The Shadow of War: The Great War Series Book…

The Shadow of War: The Great War Series Book 1

by Stewart Binns

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Reviewing this book on Remembrance Day, and the centenary of the First World War, is somehow fitting. Stewart Binns doesn't disappoint, either. The Shadow of War, the first in a series about the Great War (I'm presuming he will be releasing one for every year of the conflict), is a strange combination of historical fact and moving fiction, written in the present tense. That the style and content work is all down to the author's skill. I have read similar descriptions of the atrocities of trench warfare before, and come across some of the fictional devices many times previously - Cockney lads, lesbian nurses (what is it with lesbian nurses in WW1 fiction?) - but I was still engrossed.

The first year of war, leading up to the famous 'Christmas truce' between the Germans and Allies in 1914, is told from the point of view of various characters, from all walks of life. Some worked better than others for me, but the narrative is shared out fairly equally. From Winston Churchill, here First Lord of the Admiralty under Asquith, to a group of Lancashire weavers, the reader passes with them from a summer of peace into the shadow of war. Harry Woodruff and Maurice Tait are two Colour Sergeant Majors from London, replete with dialogue full of rhyming slang, who fought in South Africa but are still unprepared for the Western Front. The three Thomas brothers from Wales have their peaceful lives torn apart by the actions of their sister Bronwyn, while the wealthy sons of the Duke of Atholl must leave Blair Atholl Castle in Perthshire for the horrors of war. Being a northern lass, Burnley weavers Tommy and Mary Broxup and Mick and Cath Kenny seemed more 'real' to me than Churchill himself, with his family nicknames and brooding depression!

The whole saga is well paced, bringing the reality of war to life through the (mostly) made-up characters. Shocking, tragic and even comic in places, I look forward to reading part two next year. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Nov 11, 2014 |
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