Somewhere in Flanders: Letters from the Front by Heather McBriarty

Heather McBriarty’s novel, Somewhere in Flanders: Letters from the Front, is a remarkable true telling of what is what like in the trenches during the First World War. It is also a poignant love story.

From letters received by her grandmother, McBriarty shares the budding of a romance between Isobel (her grandmother) and a young man from Nova Scotia, James Johnstone. Son of a well-to-do family, when war broke out, Johnstone was compelled to enlist and anxious to do his part in the European conflict. Isobel and James corresponded during his time away, from the training in Valcartier, Quebec to the landing in England and on to the Front, with love growing stronger in each letter.

In the correspondence, we see the horrors of warfare experienced by the young men, the loneliness, the dangers in the trenches, the discomfort they were forced to endure, the mud, the cold and the dying of their comrades. Most importantly, Johnstone continues to express his love for the young lady he left in Canada, the relief and comfort her letters bring. In his writing, we often find comments wondering if he is good enough for her if she will be there when he returns. While we can’t read Isobel’s letters, we can discover her thoughts, perhaps, by reading James’ responses to her. Ever the optimist, Johnstone, remarks often of how happy he will be to reunite with Isobel.

McBriarty does not only share the love letters but provides sidenotes to James’ letters, keeping the reader abreast of what is happening to the young soldier. She has cleverly added chronological details that enhance the story. This is a well-crafted book, offering the reader a sobering reminder of the hardships of war and the loving words that helped James Johnstone to carry on. I enjoyed this book tremendously.

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You can read an interview with Heather in which she shares the writing of the book by following this link:

  • Paperback : 346 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1999265009
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1999265007
  • Publisher : Crow Mountain Publishing (Nov. 26, 2019)

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Diane Tibert
October 12, 2020 13:11

This sounds like an incredible book. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on it. As a daughter (Second World War) and a granddaughter (First World War) of veterans, I’ve a keen interest in the wars to understand better what these men had endured.

Allan Hudson
Reply to  Diane Tibert
October 13, 2020 06:58

I think you’d like it, Diane. It’s an interesting read.

Diane Tibert
Reply to  Allan Hudson
October 13, 2020 08:05

I think so, too. I’m making a note of it for the next time I put in a book order.

April 11, 2022 09:06

[…] but it was the discovery of old family correspondence that led to her first non-fiction book, Somewhere in Flanders: Letters from the Front, and a passion for the First World War. She has delivered lectures on the […]