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Scriptor Senex

I can't recall which book it was in but the time I was really impressed by the age of the combatants was when a teacher was saying goodbye to his class of sixth formers knowing that most of them were going off to war instead of university and that many of them would never come back to finish their studies.
We are a lucky generation (though I am not forgetting the US and UK soldiers who still die around the world today).


Wonderful review, Danielle.
My experience with the last third of the novel is exactly the way you describe it. Sucker punched. But I resented Barry for this. I found it quite manipulative. I don't usually react like this but that was too much for me. I guess, now that another week has gone by and I'm looking back, that he tried to write 100% anti-war. The tiniest bit of hope at the end would have watered this down.
My biggest problem however was the florid writing but I'm very glad you liked it. I know he didn't win prizes for nothing, it's just not the writing for me.
Where I certainly agree, is that he told the story from a very different angle. No clichés. And the mustard gas scene, as horrible as it is, is fantastic.


This is one of my all-time favourite novels. Great review -- thanks.


I just finished this one too. (My review That ending was such a shock to me, and I didn't like it. It felt like he didn't know how to end the book. Overall, I liked it though.


This does sound like a really intense book. It is startling to think that the students you see everyday at work would be the ones sent off to fight. They're just kids. I wish WWI was the war to end all wars, but sadly that seems to no be the case.


You and Anna from Diary of an Eccentric reviewed this on the same day! :-) I have had it on my shelf for a while, so two reviews in one day make me think of picking it up...

Buried In Print

I think his books are all connected somehow, loosely, is that right? I heard him read last autumn and I think he explained something like that, but I've yet to try one myself (I just keep gathering them up with all the best intentions *sigh*).


Scriptor Senex--We are lucky in comparison to WWI and II, though you are right soldiers today deal with troublesome situations to say the least and what they've gone through is no less horrible. Only now entire nations aren't brought into the conflicts in the same way. Very sad to hear things like what you describe--so many young men whose lives ended before they began. It makes reading these sorts of books so much more difficult really.

Caroline--I knew things were not going to end well, but I was a little surprised (probably shouldn't have been? as I am sure things like that happened) that it ended without Willie at least knowing his father loved him and was sorry for their disagreement. I think had I not had a little prior warning I might have felt worse, but I know what you mean by an author who puts you through the wringer and then offers you no glimmer of hope. The other books were sad, but not quite in the same way--this was a bleak story in many ways. I also loved the angle he told the story from and was interested in (though horrified by) hearing about what the soldiers went through with the gas. I really liked the book, but it was heavy going. Strangely the language didn't bother me--I think I was not reading as closely--rather for story than style, but when you mentioned a few examples, I can see how they would feel jarring.

Harriet--I don't feel like what I wrote did the book justice--there was so much to talk about, but it will certainly stick in my mind for a long time. I'm looking forward to trying his other books now, too.

Anna--Thanks for the link--we're on the same wavelength! I'll add it to my post. It was well done, but the ending was a shocker--I wish there had been something a little more hopeful about how it turned out. He was such a likable character--it was really heartwrenching what he went through.

Stefanie--I swear every year those students seem younger and younger. In my department we have a student worker who turned 20 just this past year and it's weird to think if this was 1916 he might well be pulled into the war--he seems so young that it's unimaginable to me. The book was very eye opening, and very sad. I'm really glad I read it, but I've needed lighter books to read since then!

Aarti--Good timing-I need to go see what she had to say about the book as well. It's fun to read with others and get different perspectives on the story. I'm not sure how long I've owned the book--have really wanted to read him and am glad I finally got the chance to do so.

Buried in Print--This is my first, so I'll be curious to see if they are. Hopefully no more war stories, though... I have The Secret Scripture and my library has On Canaan's Side...maybe I should bring home his newer book. I don't have *too* many library books out at the moment. I have Lots of good intentions, too! :)


I had hoped to read this, but I am just terrible at read-alongs... I still want to read it, though!


Kailana--There are always so many opportunities to read along--and then the TBR pile always demands attention. It's fun when it works out, though, to read in a group.


This sounds like a book that would touch me deeply. I will be adding it to my list.


Kathleen--It was excellent, but hard going at times. I do wish the ending had been more hopeful, but I guess life is mostly messy, so not all that surprising really.

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