There is a deceptive quiet to the beginning of this recollection by Farley Mowat of the hell he and his comrades endured in the bloody Sicilian and Italian campaigns of World War II. And the undersized, baby-faced young man the author was three decades ago, eager to "get a damn good lick in at the Hun," seems, in the first few pages, unendurably callow, striking attitudes as false and dated as his slang. But he grows up fast and the battles he survived as a second lieutenant in the Canadian infantry are clamorously, jarringly real - justifying epigraphs from Robert Graves, Wilfred Owen, Edmund Blunden. In 1940 at age 19 Mowat joined his father's old outfit, the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, known as the Hasty Pees and made up of men from southeastern Ontario. A bird-watcher and something of a loner, he ends up in command of a platoon of hard cases and misfits, a iamb among lions. They were thrown into the invasion of Sicily in July of 1943 and Mowat soon loses the illusion that war is little more than an exciting form of battle game. "For the first time," he writes laconically, "I truly understood that the dead were dead." Then, as the Canadians are put through the meat grinder attempting to storm a German mountain-top fortress, he comes to know an unshakable fear; each time he finds it a little harder to blind himself to the death or mutilation he is certain awaits him. Mowat not only gets his emotional responses right, but he also makes the actual battle operations intelligible. A memorable book from a practiced hand. (Kirkus Reviews)
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From the Back Cover
On September 2, 1939, Farley Mowat was painting the porch of his family's home when his ebullient father drove into the driveway and shouted, "Farley, my lad, there's big bloody news! The war is on!" Eighteen-year-old Farley responded with glee, but four years later, pinned down in the wintry mud of Italy, he saw a soldier "humping jerily away from his own leg, which had been severed at the thigh. In the instant I saw him, he gave one final bubbling shriek, collapsed and mercifully was still." And No Birds Sang is Mowat's gripping account of how a young man excited by the prospect of battle, is transformed into a war-weary veteran.
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