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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Reader's Diary #88- Kevin Major: No Man's Land (up to Ch. 7)

Every time I read a book about Canadians in the trenches of France during WWI, I wish I'd get the perspective of the French for once. While necessary, it still must have been a hardship having all those foreigners running around speaking in English and ogling their daughters. Asides from trench terminology, I think the term"No Man's Land" could just as succinctly define France at that time.

But for now, I'll settle for the Newfoundland perspective and Kevin Major does an admiral job presenting it. It's not hard to see Major's experience as an author of young adult fiction coming through. That's not a bad thing. It's just that unlike a lot of adult books which are either story-driven or character-driven, No Man's Land blends the two together, but still maintains an easy flowing story. The reader gets some sense of character building (especially of Hayward), but it's primarily through his actions and dialogues instead of inner monologues and the like. There's not a lot of risk taking so far in terms of perspective or chronology, but it's still not a boring read. And considering the fact that the book seems to be a waiting game, it's no small coup that Major holds our attention. Which brings me to my next point...

I find myself wondering how I'd feel about this book if I didn't know the outcome. Growing up in Newfoundland, I know of the tragedy that befalls these men. But even had I not, the publishers seem to assume that readers would know. There's a comment on the back by author David Macfarlane that he found himself "hoping, against all reason, that the terrible hour would never come." That would have given it away to any reader unaware of the story. But is that what compels us as reader's to read on? And in line with that, would it hold someone's attention otherwise? I'd like to find someone who doesn't know the story of Beaumont Hamel, throw away the dust jacket with the spoiler, and get their reactions.

Finally, despite reading a number of war books I still find myself getting lost with ranks. Who does a corporal outrank? Who does a 2nd Lieutenant answer to? And so forth. I've tried enlisting the internet for an explanation, but to no avail. If anyone can set me straight on this, please do so.

2 comments:

Rebecca said...

I'd like to find someone who doesn't know the story of Beaumont Hamel, throw away the dust jacket with the spoiler, and get their reactions.

*raises hand* I'll volunteer!

John Mutford said...

Rebecca, I'd love to hear your reactions. However, I've kind of spoiled it here as well that the outcome isn't good. Now, if you could track down another potential reader and avoid giving away that there's a tragedy at the end...