Thursday, March 22, 2012

Reader's Diary #812- Pierre Berton: Vimy

It was years ago that I read my first Pierre Berton book, The Arctic Grail. I positively loved it and for a while would list it and Berton among my favourites when asked about books and authors respectively. Since then I've read a few more Berton books and while I've enjoyed them somewhat (maybe not the Secret World of Og), none have come close to the Arctic Grail. I was beginning to wonder if the Arctic Grail wasn't just a fluke at worst, or the pinnacle of his career at best. Fortunately, Vimy has turned me into a true Berton fan again.

I was flying to France to visit the Vimy site as I read it, so it would be easy to say this clouded my judgement. However, as frequent readers of my blog could attest, it wasn't an entirely easy sell. I typically don't enjoy war books. However, even if I had not been touring the battlefields, it would have been hard to deny that Berton's writing in Vimy was stellar.

Berton seems to get most of his praise for his characterizations. The characters in Vimy are no less vibrant or felt than in his other books. You come to care about the soldiers because Berton gives them identity. They were young, naive, innovative, brave, caring, frustrating, and in short, human.

Yet it was his power of imagery that first drew me into Vimy. The way he describes the sounds, sights, and pain in this book is not short of breathtaking. It was really something to see the trenches in person, but I can honestly say that it was Berton that brought me to the war.

And Berton's conclusion, I don't want to spoil it if you haven't read it, was brilliant and beautiful, saving its ultimate punch until the very end. I'd go as far as saying it (the conclusion) was one of the best things I've ever read.


John Mutford said...

Read Medea's review here.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Wow, that is high praise indeed! And coming from someone not often given to hyperbole, very telling.