This book is very insightful about what WWI was like for the people–the soldiers who fought, the friends and family affected, etc. It takes periodicals from the era along with personal diary and journal entries to help shine light into the brutal reality of war.
The aspects I enjoyed consisted of how well-researched and detailed the accounts are. I particularly liked how the author weaved the entries into an article-like telling of events in chronological order, even though the intermingling came off rather abrupt at times. The writing is sharp, respectful yet informative, and smart. Some of the imagery is difficult to absorb as it discusses death in extremely horrifying ways, including those of women and children.
There is one element that I, personally, felt took away from the reading experience and one more element that I think didn’t really work for this type of storytelling. The first is that at particular places throughout the novel, I felt bored and impatient. The narration leading up to the personal accounts at times came off as unnecessarily prolonged. It’s also awkward when certain portions of the entries are in quotes within the same paragraph as the narration and others have their own block quotes, which leads me into the second part that I didn’t care for at all.
I did not like the format. I felt that the constant insertion of narration and describing what the entries would be about detracted from the impact. Emphasising that the next entry would be heartbreaking took away from the human feelings of the accounts, at least to me. If the author provided a brief narration of context at the beginning of the chapter, or beginning of the said person’s account and then provided the entries in a consecutive manner, the book would have been far more engaging and impactful, as well as fluid and accessible. But by breaking it up into mixed chunks, it came off jarring.
Overall, it is a good book about World War I. It talks about the terrible deaths, the miserable emotional affects that war has on morale for people of all walks of life, and that you can’t ever judge a person’s intentions by which side they’re fighting on. I recommend this to folks interested in history, war, and non-fiction tellings in a memoir-type set-up.
3 stars out of 5!