Sunday, January 15, 2017

REVIEW: A Boy from Botwood

A Boy from Botwood
Authors: Bryan Davies, Andrew Traficante

**I voluntarily read an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Dundern via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**

At 83-years old, Arthur Manuel bought a dictaphone and recorded his memories of serving in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during World War I from 1914-1919. He never spoke of his war experiences with anyone. His recordings and notes were lost amid other family records until 2011 when they were discovered by his grandson, David Manuel. By the time his narrative was discovered, Arthur Manuel was long dead, but because he recorded his memories, the story of the soldiers from Newfoundland that he served with 100-years ago still survives.

A Boy from Botwood alternates between Manuel's first person accounts of his experiences in the war and background information supplied by authors Bryan Davies and Andrew Traficante. Manuel starts his tale by talking about Newfoundland in the early 1900s. Many young men eagerly joined the war because they wanted to escape the poverty and desperation of home and explore the world. Little did they realize what horrors they would experience. And none of them realized that a large percentage of them would die and never return home. Manuel talks of horrific conditions, illness, life in the trenches, the terrors of battle, and his experiences as a POW.

I am so glad that this book was published. Not only does it bring to life the extreme conditions and violence of World War I, but it preserves a first-person account of what it was like to be a soldier at Gallipolli, The Battle of the Somme and other key historic events. Manuel gives more than just a recollection of events. He describes his anger and disappointment in allied leadership, his sadness at the loss of so many of his comrades, and the extreme stress, fatigue and fear each soldier felt on a daily basis.

Bryan Davies and Andrew Traficante did an excellent job of organizing Manuel's memoir from his recordings. They added in background information explaining the events, locales, troops and military leaders Manuel discusses so that readers get a deeper understanding of Manuel's experiences. His hatred of war and the immense destruction it caused did not diminish with time. Manuel states in his narrative that after the war he never again owned or fired a gun.

This is a powerfully moving book. Anyone interested in World War I history would definitely enjoy this memoir.

A Boy from Botwood will be published by Dundern on February 14, 2017.

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