Friday, 9 December 2016

Book Review | A Boy From Botwood by Bryan Davies & Andrew Traficante

30183040A proud Newfoundland soldier’s memoir gives unprecedented details of life as a German POW during the First World War.

I’m going to tell my story. With those words, eighty-three-year-old Arthur Manuel set his remarkable First World War memoir in motion. Hidden in the Manuel family records until its 2011 discovery by his grandson David Manuel, Arthur’s story is now brought to new life.

Like many Great War veterans, Manuel had never discussed his wartime life with anyone. Determined to escape his impoverished rural Newfoundland existence, he enlisted with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in late 1914. His harrowing accounts of life under fire span the Allies’ ill-fated 1915 Gallipoli campaign, the Regiment’s 1916 near-destruction at Beaumont-Hamel, and his 1917 Passchendaele battlefield capture. Manuel’s account of his seventeen-month POW experience, including his nearly successful escape from a German forced labour camp, provides unique, compelling Great War insights.

Powerful memories undimmed by age shine through Manuel’s lucid prose. His visceral hatred of war, and of the leaders on both sides who permitted such senseless carnage to continue, is ferocious yet tempered by Manuel’s powerful affection for common soldiers like himself, German and Allied alike. This poignant, angry, witty, and provocative account rings true like no other. 

*I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

I've read a few different wartime accounts before, though admittedly mostly from the second world war. What I've read before was different from this. A Boy From Botwood gives an in-depth look not only at what it was like as a prisoner of war, but also what it's like on the frontlines. For me, this was a really interesting aspect, previously I've only really read accounts of nurse's and the occasional account from doctors or men higher up in position. Getting a realistic account of what it was like on the frontlines, was really interesting and it's made me want to read more of this type of work.
Told with great detail and emotion, this story is definitely something I would recommend if you're interested in wartime history.


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