Book Club readings
- March 2013
Márquez, Gabriel Garcia 1988 Love in the Time of Cholera. A.A. Knopf, New York. 348 pages.
- A small coastal town in an un-named South American county in the late 19th century and the early
20th century witnesses the 51-year courtship of Fermina Daza by Florentino Ariza. As an overly-protected
young girl, Fermina rejects Florentino and marries a wealthy doctor, Dr Juvenal Urbino, who offers her
stability and security. Florentino maintains his dream of love for 51 years, although this does not
stop him from playing a full role in the life of the town. The evocation of the life and times and
personalities of the town are the most powerful part of the story. Márquez was awarded the
Nobel Prize in Literature in 1985.
- January 2013
Kishkan, Teresa 2009 The Age of Water Lilies. Brindle and Glass. 275 pages.
- This gentle story is set in Victoria in 1962-63. Tessa is about 10 years old, an imaginative
intelligent child. She becomes friends with a neighbour on Memorial Crescent, an elderly lady, Miss
Flora Oakden. They share an interest in nature and a passion for history and landscape. While Tessa
explores her neighbourhood and becomes increasing aware of her surroundings, Miss Oakden's remembers
her difficult young adult life in western Canada. An immigrant from England, the direction of her life
is changed by WWI, as was the case for so many women on the home front. She had artistic talent and
worked as a painter of glazed tiles for a local manufacturing company. She often used floral motifs,
including lilies, based on those in her garden, plants which she brought with her from England and
forms one of the few remnants of that past life.
- November 2012
Waldman, Amy 2011 The Submission. HarperCollins, New York, USA. 299 pages.
- A jury gathers in Manhattan to select a memorial for the victims of a devastating terrorist attack. Their fraught
deliberations complete, the jurors open the envelope containing the anonymous winner’s name - and discover he
is an American Muslim. Instantly they are cast into roiling debate about the claims of grief, the ambiguities of art,
and the meaning of Islam. Their conflicted response is only a preamble to the country’s.
The memorial’s designer is an enigmatic, ambitious architect named Mohammad Khan. His fiercest defender on
the jury is its sole widow, the self-possessed and mediagenic Claire Burwell. But when the news of his selection
leaks to the press, she finds herself under pressure from outraged family members and in collision with hungry
journalists, wary activists, opportunistic politicians, fellow jurors, and Khan himself - as unknowable as he is
gifted. In the fight for both advantage and their ideals, all will bring the emotional weight of their own histories to
bear on the urgent question of how to remember, and understand, a national tragedy.
- September 2012
Yoshimoto, Banana 2005 The Lake. Translated by Michael Emmerich. Melville House, Brooklyn, New York, USA. 188 pages.
- While The Lake shows off many of the features that have made Banana Yoshimoto famous - a cast of
vivid and quirky characters, simple yet nuanced prose, a tight plot with an upbeat pace - it’s also one of
the most darkly mysterious books she’s ever written. It tells the tale of a young woman who moves
to Tokyo after the death of her mother, hoping to get over
her grief and start a career as a graphic artist. She finds herself spending too much time staring out her
window, though - until she realizes she’s gotten used to seeing a young man across the street staring out
his window, too. They eventually embark on a hesitant romance, until she learns that he has been the victim of some form
of childhood trauma. Visiting two of his friends who live a monastic life beside a beautiful lake, she
begins to piece together a series of clues that lead her to suspect his experience may have had something
to do with a bizarre religious cult. With its echoes of the infamous, real-life Aum Shinrikyo cult (the group that released poison gas in the
Tokyo subway system), The Lake unfolds as the most powerful novel Banana Yoshimoto has written.
And as the two young lovers overcome their troubled past to discover hope in the beautiful solitude of the
lake in the country-side, it’s also one of her most moving.
- August 2012
Pötzsch, Oliver 2008 The Hangman's Daughter. Translated by Lee Chadeayne. Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, USA. 435 pages.
- Magdalena, the clever and headstrong daughter of Bavarian hangman Jakob Kuisl, lives with her father
outside the village walls and is destined to be married off to another hangman’s son - except that the
town physician’s son is hopelessly in love with her. And her father’s wisdom and empathy are as unusual
as his despised profession. It is 1659, the Thirty Years’ War has finally ended, and there hasn't been a
witchcraft mania in decades. But now, a drowning and gruesomely injured boy, tattooed with the mark of
a witch, is pulled from a river and the villagers suspect the local midwife, Martha Stechlin.
Jakob Kuisl is charged with extracting a confession from her and torturing her until he gets one.
Convinced she is innocent, he, Magdalena, and her would-be suitor to race against the clock to find the
true killer. Approaching Walpurgisnacht, when witches are believed to dance in the forest and mate
with the devil, another tattooed orphan is found dead and the town becomes frenzied. More than one
person has spotted what looks like the devil - a man with a hand made only of bones. The hangman, his
daughter, and the doctor’s son face a terrifying and very real enemy.
- July 2012
Murakami, Haruki 2011 1Q84. Translated by Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel. Random House, Toronto, Ontario. 1029 pages.
- One review described 1Q84 as a "complex and surreal narrative" which "shifts back and forth between
tales of two characters, a man and a woman, who are searching for each other". It tackles themes of
murder, history, cult religion, violence, family ties and love.
- June 2012
Morton, Kate 2008 The Forgotten Garden. Washington Square Press, New York. 552 pages.
- In 1913 London, a little girl plays on the deck of a ship, waiting for the return of the woman who left her
there. But the woman doesn't return and the child, a castaway, ends up in Australia. On her 21st birthday,
her adopted parents tell the girl the secret of her identity, setting in motion a search that will span three
generations and lead her to the forgotten garden of the title.
- May 2012
Desrochers, Suzanne 2011 Bride of New France. Penguin Books, Canada. 294 pages.
- This book by Canadian author Suzanne Desrochers is the result of her PhD thesis where she is comparing
the migration of French and British women to North America in the early modern period. In 1669,
Laure Beausejour, an orphan imprisoned with prostitutes, the insane and other forgotten women
in Paris’ infamous Salpêtrière, is sent across the Atlantic to New France as a Fille du roi. Laure once
dreamed with her best friend Madeleine of using her needlework stills to become a seamstress on the Rue
Saint-Honoré and to one day marry a gentleman. The King, however, needs French women in his new
colony and he finds a fresh supply in the city’s largest orphanage. Laure and Madeleine know little of the
place called New France, except for stories of ferocious winters and men who eat the hearts of French
priests. To be banished to Canada is a punishment worse than death. Bride of New France explores
the challenges of coming into womanhood in a brutal time and place. From
the moment she arrives in Ville-Marie (Montreal), Laure is expected to marry and produce children with
a French soldier who can himself barely survive the harsh conditions of his forest cabin. But Laure finds,
through her clandestine relationship with Deskaheh, an allied Iroquois, a sense of the possibilities in this
- April 2012
Doyle, Brian 2010 Mink River. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, Oregon. 319 pages.
- Brian Doyle’s debut novel brings a community to life through the jumbled lives and braided stories of
its people. In a village on the Oregon coast there are love affairs and almost-love-affairs, mystery and
hilarity, bears and tears, brawls and boats, a garrulous logger and a silent doctor, rain and pain, Irish
immigrants and Salish stories, mud and laughter. There’s a Department of Public Works that gives
haircuts and counts insects, a policeman addicted to Puccini, a philosophizing crow, beer and berries.
An expedition is mounted, a crime committed, and there’s an unbelievably huge picnic on the football
field. Babies are born. A car is cut in half with a saw. A river confesses what it is thinking. It’s the tale
of a community, written in a distinct and lyrical voice. Readers will close the book more than a little sad
to leave the village of Neawanaka, on the wet coast of Oregon, beneath the hills that used to boast the
biggest trees in the history of the world.
- March 2012
Adamson, Gil 2007 The Outlander. House of Anansi Press Limited, Toronto, Ontario. 388 pages.
- Set mostly in southern Alberta in 1903. Tells the tale of Mary Boulton, 19 years old and fleeing
from her two brothers-in-law after shooting and killing her husband after he'd been callous about
the death of their child. Originally from the more genteel east (Ontario perhaps), she has to
learn to survive in the harsh western landscape, especially the mountains. She winds up in the
town of Frank and is there when the slide happens, She's just on the edge of the slide area and
instead of being killed she is badly injured but survives. In fact she's pretty tough since
she also survives being shot in the leg by an arrow during her flight through the mountains.
The brutality of some men is balanced off against the kindness of at least three that she meets
in her travels.
- February 2012
Twelve Hawks, John 2005 The Traveler. Seal Books, Toronto. 404 pages.
- What lies ahead is already here and America is a difficult place to live below the surface. But Gabriel and
Michael Corrigan are trying to do just that. Since childhood, the brothers have been shaped by the stories
that their father has told them about the world in which they live. After his mysterious disappearance,
they have been living off the grid that is, invisible to the intrusive surveillance networks that monitor our
modern lives. But no-one is as invisible as they would like to believe. Nathan Boone, a mercenary, has
been tasked to hunt down the brothers. The only person who stands between them and certain death is
Maya, a tough young woman playing at leading a normal life. But her background is anything but normal.
She has been trained to fight and survive at whatever cost. When she is summoned to protect the brothers,
she must leave everything behind if she is to succeed
- January 2012
Mistry, Rohinton 1991 Such a Long Journey. McClelland and Stewart, Toronto. 346 pages.
- It is Bombay in 1971, the year India went to war over what was to become Bangladesh. A hard-working
bank clerk, Gustad Noble is a devoted family man who gradually sees his modest life unravelling. His
young daughter falls ill; his promising son defies his father's ambitions for him. He is the one reasonable
voice amidst the ongoing dramas of his neighbours. One day, he receives a letter from an old friend,
asking him to help in what at first seems like an heroic mission. But he soon finds himself unwittingly
drawn into a dangerous network of deception. Compassionate, and rich in details of character and place,
this unforgettable novel charts the journey of a moral heart in a turbulent world of change.
- December 2011
Follett, Ken 1990 The Pillars of the Earth. Signet Books, New York. 983 pages.
- Set in 12th-century England, the narrative concerns the building of a cathedral in the fictional town
of Kingsbridge. The ambitions of three men merge, conflict and collide through four decades during
which social and political upheaval and the internal politics of the church affect the progress of the
cathedral and the fortunes of the protagonists. The insightful portrayals of an idealistic master builder,
a pious, dogmatic but compassionate prior and an unscrupulous, ruthless bishop are balanced by those
of a trio of independent, resourceful women. Beginning with a mystery that casts its shadow on ensuing
events, the narrative is a seesaw of tension in which circumstances change with shocking but true-to-
life unpredictability. Follett's impeccable pacing builds suspense in a balanced narrative that offers
action, intrigue, violence and passion as well as the step-by-step description of an edifice rising in slow
stages, its progress tied to the vicissitudes of fortune and the permutations of evolving architectural style.
Follett's depiction of the precarious balance of power between monarchy and religion in the Middle Ages,
and of the effects of social upheavals and the forces of nature (storms, famines) on political events; his
ability to convey the fine points of architecture so that the cathedral becomes clearly visualized in the
reader's mind; and above all, his portrayals of the enduring human emotions of ambition, greed, bravery,
dedication, revenge and love, result in a highly engrossing narrative.
- November 2011
McCullough, Colleen 2008 The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet. McArthur and Company, Toronto. 467 pages.
- Readers of Pride and Prejudice will remember that there were five Bennet sisters. Now, twenty years
on, Jane has a happy marriage and a large family; Lizzy and Mr. Darcy now have a formidable social
reputation; Lydia has a reputation of quite another kind; Kitty is much in demand in London's parlours
and ballrooms; but what of Mary? Mary is quietly celebrating her independence, having nursed her
ailing mother for many years. Marriage may be far from her mind, but what if she were to meet the one
man whose fiery articles infuriate the politicians and industrialists? And what if when she starts to ask similar
questions, she unwittingly places herself in great danger?
- October 2011
Hay, Elizabeth 2007 Late Nights on Air. McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, Ontario. 364 pages.
- June 17 1976. Four people leave Yellowknife for a six-week canoe trip through the barren lands down the
Thelon River to visit John Hornby's cabin, the place where he and two companions starved to death in the
winter of 1927. The four are all strangers to this landscape and all work for small radio station, CFYK, in
Yellowknife. Harry Boyd is the station manager. He got his start at the station and then went south for an
unsuccessful stint in television and has returned as a failure. He's talented but his drinking has damaged
his career. Eleanor Dew, also in her 40s, is the station's receptionist and came to Yellowknife in 1970
after a failed marriage. Ralph Cody, the oldest at 61, is a freelance book reviewer but his real passion and
talent is for photography. He photographs the landscape in close-up: grass stalks against winter snow,
pondweeds swirling in water currents. The youngest is Gwen Symon, in her mid-20s. She drove north
from southern Ontario, because she wants to work as a script editor in radio and has been told that it'll be
easier to get work and experience there. As their journey proceeds, there is an invisible fifth to the group:
Dido Paris, daughter of Dutch immigrants, and the news reader at the station. Harry heard her voice
on radio and fell in love with her. But Dido is more interested in a perverse and vaguely unhealthy
relationship with a different man. Harry can't get over her and really can't engage with the people or
places around him. This is a shame, because they are moving through a land of great beauty. And
they are all uncomfortably aware that this fragile land is under threat. For months, Yellowknife has
been the setting for the Berger Enquiry. They have sat in the hearings and heard the testimony about
the Aboriginal people's relationship to the land of the north, about the great caribou herds and other
wildlife. Development, if it comes, when it comes, will bring immense changes. So their journey also has
something of the flavour of a dream, an air of enchantment, underlain by violence.
- September 2011
Jones, Edward P. 2003 The Known World. Amistad, HarperCollins, New York. 388 pages.
- This remarkable novel, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award and short-listed for the National Book
Award, deserves all the acclaim it has won and then some, especially in this flawless rendition. The story
is set in antebellum Virginia, in the morally complex world of prosperous free blacks who aspire to all
the liberties of white citizenship, including owning slaves.
- August 2011
Taylor, Timothy 2002 Stanley Park. Counterpoint, Washington, DC. 423 pages.
- A young chef who revels in local bounty, a long-ago murder that remains unsolved, the homeless of
Stanley Park, a smooth-talking businessman named Dante - these are the ingredients of Timothy
Taylor's stunning debut novel - Kitchen Confidential meets The Edible Woman. Trained in France,
Jeremy Papier, the young Vancouver chef, is becoming known for his unpretentious dishes that highlight
fresh, local ingredients. His restaurant, The Monkey's Paw Bistro, while struggling financially, is
attracting the attention of local foodies, and is not going unnoticed by Dante Beale, owner of a successful
coffeehouse chain, Dante's Inferno. Meanwhile, Jeremy's father, an eccentric anthropologist, has moved
into Stanley Park to better acquaint himself with the homeless and their daily struggles for food, shelter
and company. Jeremy's father also has a strange fascination for a years-old unsolved murder case, known
as "The Babes in the Wood" and asks Jeremy to help him research it. Dante is dying to get his hands on
The Monkey's Paw. When Jeremy's elaborate financial kite begins to fall, he is forced to sell to Dante
and become his employee. The restaurant is closed for renovations, Inferno style. Jeremy plans a menu
for opening night that he intends to be the greatest culinary statement he's ever made, one that unites the
homeless with high foody society in a paparazzi-covered celebration of "local splendour".
- July 2011
Thomas, Joan 2010 Curiosity: A Love Story. McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, Ontario. 409 pages.
- Based mostly on historical events, this fine novel is set mainly in Lyme Regis, southwest England, in
the early 19th century. Thomas writes of the complex relationship between Mary Anning and Henry
de la Beche. Mary is the daughter of a cabinetmaker and collects fossils or curiosities from the eroding
cliffs to sell to the travellers and tourists who pass through the town. Trained by her father, she develops
a remarkable eye for the fossils. She finds some impressive fossils in the cliffs, including a large
Ichthyosaurus and a large Plesiosaur. These fossils are taken, described and named by others (Buckland
and Conybeare respectively) and Mary gets no credit for her part in their discovery. However, as Thomas
writes her, she becomes a skilled and intuitive anatomist basically through observation. We also see
part of the story though the eyes of Henry de la Beche, an upper middle-class man whose income comes
from a slave-worked sugar plantation in Jamaica. The plantation is failing but still provides him with a
relatively comfortable life. He is an acute observer also and a good artist. Despite differences of class,
gender and wealth, Mary and Henry become friends after a fashion as they meet and communicate over
the fossils. Mary in this portrayal is a very intelligent and determined character and is quick to learn.
Both are challenged in their beliefs by the implications of the fossil finds. The title - Curiosity - has many
layers of meaning, from the objects collected, to the treasures displayed by the wealthy in their curio-
cabinets, to the spirit of scientific enquiry.
- June 2011
Goldman, William 1973 The Princess Bride. Ballantine Books, New York. 399 pages.
- The courtship of Westley and Buttercup. Westley is a farm boy who goes off to seek his
fortune in America in order to win the hand of Buttercup, the farmer's daughter, who is very
beautiful. in fact, she is so beautiful that she attracts the attentions of the evil Prince Humperdinck,
the Crown Prince of Florin. She only agrees to marry him once she believes that Westley is dead,
killed by pirates (in fact, Westley survives and has become the leader of the pirates). Just
before the wedding, Buttercup is kidnapped by a gang, Vizzni the Sicilian who is the leader,
Inigo the Spaniard (a famous swordsman) and Fezzik the Turk who's a giant and immensely strong.
Prince Humperdinck has commissioned them to kidnap and kill her so that he can blame it on Guilder,
the rival kingdom, and give him a pretext for invasion. But Westley defeats the three (killing
Vizzini in the process) and rescues her, before being captured by Prince Humperdinck. The
Prince imprisons Westley and forces Buttercup to promise to marry him in return for sparing
Westley's life. Fezzik and Inigo free Westley from prison and all three rescue Buttercup and
as the novel ends are fleeing from Florin. The tale is written as though it is abridged
from a longer work, with occasional interjections by Goldman.
- May 2011
Urquhart, Jane 2005 A Map of Glass. McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, Ontario. 371 pages.
- Jane Urquhart's novel weaves two parallel stories, one set in contemporary Toronto and Prince Edward
County, Ontario, the other in the nineteenth century on the northern shores of Lake Ontario. Sylvia
Bradley was rescued from her parents' house by a doctor attracted to and challenged by her
withdrawn ways. Their subsequent marriage has nourished her, but ultimately her husband's care has
formed a kind of prison. When she meets Andrew Woodman, a historical geographer, her world changes.
A year after Andrew's death, Sylvia makes an unlikely connection with Jerome McNaughton, a young
Toronto artist whose discovery of Andrew's body on a small island at the mouth of the St. Lawrence
River unlocks a secret in his own past. After Sylvia finds Jerome in Toronto, she shares with him the
story of her unusual childhood and of her devastating and ecstatic affair with Andrew, a man whose
life was irrevocably affected by the decisions of the past. At the breathtaking centre of the novel is the
compelling tale of Andrew's forebears. We meet his great-great-grandfather, Joseph Woodman, whose
ambitions brought him from England to the northeastern shores of Lake Ontario, during the days of the
flourishing timber and shipbuilding industries; Joseph's practical, independent and isolated daughter,
Annabel; and his son, Branwell, an innkeeper and a painter. It is Branwell's eventual liaison with an
orphaned French-Canadian woman that begins the family's new generation and sets the stage for future
events. A novel about loss and the transitory nature of place, A Map of Glass is vivid with evocative prose and
haunting imagery - a lake of light on a wooden table; a hotel gradually buried by sand; a fully clothed
man frozen in an iceberg; a blind woman tracing her fingers over a tactile map. Containing all of the
elements for which Jane Urquhart's writing is celebrated, it stands as her richest, most accomplished novel
- April 2011
Smith, Diane Letters from Yellowstone. Penguin Books, New York. 226 pages.
- It is 1898 and Professor Merriam, a botanist from a new Agricultural college in Bozeman, Montana,
is planning a summer field season in Yellowstone National Park. He's having trouble rounding up other
participants. So when a letter arrives from A. E. Bartram, studying medicine at Cornell but with a
passion for botany, he is delighted to recruit him to the team. A member of a famous plant family no less!
But Bertram is a woman. Consternation ensues. Merriam realizes that he has little choice but to
accept help, however unlikely the source. The story of the subsequent field season is told in
letters that each of the main characters send to their correspondents back home and elsewhere. So
we get the same incidents recounted from different viewpoints. Alex, the lady botanist, has a very
different view on science to Merriam, who also differs from Peacock, the insect man, and Rutherford,
an agricultural advisor. Their conversations, conflicts and clashes form the heart of this novel.
- March 2011
Bodanis, David 2000 E=mc2: A biography of the world's most famous equation. Doubleday, Canada. 337 pages.
- An interesting and very readable approach to telling science through people stories. Bodanis takes the separate components
of the equation and explains what they mean, especially through some of the 18th and 19th century
scientists who investigated them. Thus we learn about Michael Faraday and Humphrey Davy (m), Lavoisier (m),
Cassini, Roemer, James Clerk Maxwell (c) and then onto Einstein (in the c chapter), then Voltaire and his
lover, du Chatelet (2, squared power), who died giving birth to his child. Then we move on to Einstein
and his derivation of the equation, especially the year of 1905 and story of Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner,
and then into the more familiar story of the race to build the atomic bomb in WWII. Finally ends with
links to cosmology (Hoyle and Chandra) - the Big Bang and the understanding of solar energy and where
it comes from.
- February 2011
Findley, Timothy 1984 Not Wanted on the Voyage. Viking, Canada. 352 pages.
- The voyage of the Ark, in a re-imagined context. Here, Yahweh is a tired and vengeful old man
who sends the rain in a petulant fit after the city folk have driven him away because they don't
see a need for him any more. Dr Noyes (Noah), Yahweh's friend, still believes. He is a fanatic or,
as we might say now, a fundamentalist. He spends his time enforcing discipline and orthodoxy on
his family and conducting cruel "experiments" on animals - really satisfying his sadistic cravings
under the guise of science. His wife, Mrs Noyes, is also elderly, worn out with child-bearing
and an alcoholic, taking solace in gin. Their remaining grown-up children are a real disappointment.
Shem, the eldest (the Ox) is stolid and imperturbable and is married to the fascinating and beautiful
Hannah, with whom Dr Noyes has an incestuous relationship which is studiously ignored by all. Japheth,
the youngest son, has been traumatized by his capture and torment by a group of brigands and cannibals.
He is married to Emma, barely more than a child, and is unable to consummate their union, in part
because she refuses to have anything to do with him. Recently, he has developed an unhealthy interest in
warfare and weaponry (following the example of Yahweh's chief bodyguard, the Archangel Michael). Ham,
the middle son, is hugely intelligent and has true scientific curiosity but is way ahead of his time.
This odd group attracts the attention of Lucifer, a restless fallen angel, brother of Michael,
who turns himself into Lucy and marries Ham. The Ark is built and loaded, the rains come, and the
voyage starts. On board ship, the clan are divided into two. On the upper decks, living in
comparative comfort and with good food. are Dr Noyes, Japheth, Shem and Hannah. Locked below
decks, with dark, poor food and discomfort, are Mrs Noyes, Ham, Lucy and Emma, the rebellious
group. Much of the story is seem through the perceptions of Mottyl,
Mrs Noyes's elderly cat, old, sick, and blind, but very observant and intuitive. She provides
the sensory commentary on the events and we learn more from her about what
is going on than we do from the other characters who, although they have eyesight, are really
blind to Dr Noyes's true objectives. This is not a warms and fuzzy view of religion and its
role in society but a savage and very dark view of fanaticism and perversion of belief, and
also the way that self-deceit eventually heads to madness.
- January 2011
Boyden, Joseph 2005 Three Day Road. Penguin Books, New York, USA. 354 pages.
- The tale of two young Cree boys from northern Ontario near Moose Factory, Xavier Bird and
Elijah Whiskeyjack, who go to fight in Europe in WWI. Elijah, who spent much of his youth in
residential school, soon fits in and becomes popular with the rest of the unit, so much so that
he is made Corporal. Xavier speaks little English and was brought up mostly in the bush by his aunt,
Niska. The tale of their life in France is told mostly by Xavier as he floats in a morphine-induced
dreams, while his aunt takes him down-river to the north and back home again. He has come back to
Canada but he is badly damaged in body and mind. On the Front, the boys' hunting talents means
that they are superb scouts and snipers. But Elijah gets too fond of killing and commits many
atrocities. The three day road of the title is the three days the Cree believe the soul travels
after death. It is also the three days that Niska and Xavier travel down the river to reach home.
Much of the book is taken up with the horrors of trench warfare. The boys fight at Ypres, help
to take Vimy Ridge, and fight at Amiens and Passchendaele. The tale is compelling yet also
disturbing and harrowing.