Friday, 8 July 2011

Tim Cook, "At the Sharp End: Canadians Fighting the Great War 1914-1916" (2007)

Volume 1 of an awarding-winning two-volume series.

As Cook mentions near the beginning of this opus, he is striving to tell the story of the war as experienced at "the sharp end"; by the Canadian soldiers at the front lines, in the trenches. His narrative closely and effectively weaves excerpts from soldiers' letters and diaries into well-researched information about Canadian troop movements, and technical aspects of the war (ranging from the mechanical - such as how an artillery gun worked, or the evolution of the grenade - to the mundane - such as how the latrines worked (or didn't, as the case may be)). The concentration on the details of daily life, such as why so many soldiers took to smoking, is what makes this book really fascinating. For those who don't have the time or desire to read the whole volume, Chapters 18 through 20 are the best in the book, and the ones that most effectively cover the mechanical and mundane technical details that I find so interesting.

The National Post has published excerpts from the first chapters of the book.