The Wars (Review)

July 7, 2010

Book cover for "The Wars" by Timothy Findley.Title: The Wars

Author: Timothy Findley

Publication Year: 1977

Pages: 198

Genre: Fiction

Source: Purchased from Chapters.ca

From the cover:

Robert Ross, a sensitive nineteen-year-old Canadian officer, went to war – The War to End All Wars. He found himself in the nightmare world of trench warfare, of mud and smoke, of chlorine gas and rotting corpses. In this world gone mad, Robert Ross performed a last desperate act to declare his commitment to life in the midst of death.

The Wars was the selection for my offline book club last month. When a surprise required family visit popped up that made me cancel at the last minute, I also stopped reading the last little bit of the book, and didn’t get around to finishing it until last night. I’m sad that I didn’t finish it all at once – Findley’s story was profound so engaging that I probably could have read it in one sitting.

The character of Robert Ross is the central point of The Wars, but not always the direct focus. What that means is that the ‘narrator’ isn’t Ross, and the story is not always told in the present tense. There is a frame story in this novel, where a historian is looking back and interviewing people who came across Robert Ross during a certain period of time when he was a soldier, and using their memories, interviews, and artifacts to piece together “what happened”. The scene that opens the book is of Ross ending up in a burning barn with a bunch of horses, and is repeated verbatim near the end of the novel when the story has come full circle and we can actually understand what is going on. When I read it at the beginning of the novel, it’s confusing and doesn’t make much sense, but it did give me something to piece together as I read the book. There were so many different levels to The Wars, so much going on, but this scene gave me a place to ground myself in and to work towards deciphering.

Findley also did a great job in the historical aspect of the novel. The Wars was a realistic, gritty look at the life of a soldier in WWI, both at home in preparation and abroad in (and out of) the trenches. Usually, the representations of this historical situation were woven into the rest of the narrative, exposing Ross’ character and those of the people around him at the same time as showing the reader a vivid depiction of the horrors of their physical and emotional environment.

Definitely a book I’d recommend for you all, especially Canadians or those interested in WWI or the conditions surrounding the battlefield. Also, there are bits of hidden awesomeness regarding Ross’ sexual development and the different relationships he had with a variety of other characters throughout the story.

Rating:

6 Comments

  • Amy July 8, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Ooohhh sounds interesting, and you really caught my attention with the last sentence about his sexual development. Intriguing!

  • zibilee July 8, 2010 at 9:48 am

    I have another book by Findley called Not Wanted on the Voyage. It’s an retelling of the story of Noah, and I have heard it’s amazing. After reading this review I want to get this book as well. You make the story sound fascinating. Thanks for being so persuasive in your review, this one is going on the list!!

    • Carina July 8, 2010 at 2:52 pm

      My roommate has that one, and is going to be lending it to me to read! I absolutely adore Findley.

  • smellincoffee July 9, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    The Great War is one of my key historical interests, so I’ll keep my eyes open for this one. Thanks. 🙂

  • Colleen July 11, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Findley is one of my favorite authors and The Wars is one of my favorite books of his.The great thing about him is that all of his books are so very different but the writing is always top notch. Love reading about other people discovering him. 🙂

  • Thomas at My Porch July 13, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Findley is one of my favorite authors as well (except for his final book…) and The Wars is such a great book. I particularly like the scene toward the beginning where the mother is at church in silent anguish over all of the hoopla surrounding the soliders headed off to war.

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