WWI

Heard Amid the Guns by Jacqueline Larson Carmichael

Grandpa Tom, my paternal grandfather (a couple of marriages in) served in the First World War, one of the thousands of underage Canadian kids who lied about their birthdates and enlisted, getting themselves a buzzcut, rifle, and what was, for most, a one-way ticket to the world’s worst Grand Tour. Like every soldier they felt, in part, they were doing their duty—for queen and country in this case, and to keep perceived evil at bay.…

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.…

The Spoon Stealer by Lesley Crewe

Reading a novel by Lesley Cynthia Crewe is like covering yourself in an old quilt. You know you can settle in and get cozy, wrap yourself in the words and let the characters and their memories keep you company as you read.

Emmeline Darling, the book’s main character, revisits her past as she reads aloud from her memoir at a writing class she takes in her retirement years.…

The Daughters’ Story by Murielle Cyr

I would like to start this review* by quoting the Author’s Note at the end of the text: “Although the references to historical names and events are real, this story remains, first and foremost, a work of fiction. October of 1970 was a tumultuous time for the people of Quebec. Emotions ran high, ideals soared and plummeted, yet they emerged from this with a clearer, more confident vision of themselves as a society.…

Best New Brunswick Reads of 2018

Looking back on all the books I reviewed in 2018, there were plenty of good ones that came out of New Brunswick.

Before I get to highlighting just a few of them, I would like to mention how unhappy I was at the hearing of the passing of Raymond Fraser in 2018. He will leave a definite void in the East Coast writing scene, but he leaves behind a legacy of enjoyable reading and poetry as well.…

The Crackie by Gary Collins

Newfoundland’s master storyteller Gary Collins returns with a novel written in his cogent style that blends together fiction and history into a uniquely readable book that anyone would enjoy. That may sound like a marketing line you might read on the back of one of Mr. Collin’s books, but I have read and/or reviewed several of his books and I’ve always found them to be enjoyable, compelling reads.…

A Family of Brothers: Soldiers of the 26th New Brunswick Battalion in the Great War by J. Brent Wilson

On the 100th anniversary of the end of hostilities in Europe, Goose Lane Editions has published a comprehensive volume of the history of the 26th New Brunswick Battalion. Over 250 pages of the battalion’s history, from its formation in 1914 to returning home in 1918.

They fought at Ypres in the fall of 1915, on the Somme at Courcelette and Regina Trench in 1916.…

The Land’s Long Reach by Valerie Mills-Milde

This is the book that I was awaiting from Valerie Mills-Milde. I had to patiently wait two years from the time that her exceptional debut novel After Drowning (2016, Inanna Publications) was released. That book won a 2017 IPPY Silver Medal for Contemporary Fiction. Of After Drowning, I stated: “After Drowning is an intriguing, well-paced and mysteriously captivating story of everyday lives impacted by tragic events and the collateral damage they inflict as well as the long road back to recovery and reconciliation.”

I Remain, Your Loving Son: Intimate Stories of Beaumont-Hamel by Frances Ennis (Editor), Bob Wakeham (Editor)

Since this book is composed of transcripts of two documentaries, with added poems and photographs, it doesn’t really lend itself to any type of review other than to compliment Flanker Press on doing admirable job of assembling and producing this book. Particularly striking is the full-colour insert “Remembering With Rugs” a collection of hand-hooked rugs commemorating aspects of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and that fateful July 1st, 1916 when the entire regiment was machine-gunned down in minutes.…

A Boy From Botwood by Pte. A.W. Manuel

“Generals, colonels, majors, and captains have all written books about the First World War, but in the years that have since come and gone, I have never read or even heard of one that was written by a sergeant, a corporal, or a private, the lowly common front-line foot soldier.”

are the words of Private Arthur.W. Manuel who served in the First World War (or the “Great War” as it was then known) with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment from 1914-1919.…

Living Up to a Legend by Diana Bishop

My Adventures with Billy Bishop’s Ghost, Diana Bishop’s memoirs of her grandfather, WWI Canadian flying ace Billy Bishop, is an insightful, moving look at growing up in the shadow of a legend. Living Up to a Legend (Dundurn, 2017) is full of important moments and keen recollections of a life lived not only with Billy’s ghost but with a father (Arthur Bishop) who was a WWII RCAF officer who flew Spitfires and was popular in his own right.…

A Deadly Drive – The Miramichi Experience During the Great War by Gary Silliker

An excellent book, primarily due to the research and the compilation of all the information Mr. Silliker was able to discover on the many men and women from the Miramichi area that served in WWI. Arranged in a logical fashion, the text also includes tidbits of local news as well as notes on the progression of the war and what was happening back home.…

A Splendid Boy by Melanie Martin

Since it has been one hundred years since the Battle of the Somme in WWI, there have been numerous books produced, both fiction and non-fiction that deal with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and its heavy involvement in the Great War. A Splendid Boy (2016, Flanker Press) by Melanie Martin is a fine example of the type of historical fiction Flanker Press produces.…

Beaumont Hamel, Newfoundland Park by Nigel Cave

The Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest battles of WWI. Over one million were killed or wounded from July to November 1916. To commemorate the role of Newfoundland and Labradorian troops fighting near the village of Beaumont Hamel one hundred years ago, Flanker Press has acquired the trade book rights to Nigel Cave’s Beaumont Hamel, Newfoundland Park. The Dominion of Newfoundland (they didn’t become part of Canada until 1949) purchased the 80 acre site of Newfoundland Park after the war, a decision which led to the creation of the finest trench park on the Western Front.…

Aftershock: The Halifax Explosion and the Persecution of Pilot Francis Mackey by Janet Maybee

Aftershock, a 2015 book published by Nimbus is an essential read for those interested in the Halifax Explosion of December 6th, 1917. It was on this date that one of the biggest explosions up to that time in North America occurred in Halifax harbour killing thousands and leaving many more injured and scarred for life. However, as the author states in the preface: “This is not a Halifax Explosion report.