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Wipers: A Soldier's Tale From the Great War Paperback – September 12, 2009
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A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
About the Author
Jeff Simmons is a graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and College of Education. He is a former news reporter and a teacher of history, English, and mathematics. A native of Washington, West Virginia, he now resides in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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I base my opinion on the testimony of my late father-in-law, who served in the American Expeditionary Force in France, in a unit under the command of a captain named Harry S. Truman. Like many combat veterans, Dad never talked about his wartime experiences, that is, until I came along fifty years after World War I had ended. By that time, he was ready to open up, and he regaled me with hair-raising tales from his days in the trenches.
I mention this because in reading Simmons' book, I felt as if I were revisiting many of the same stories I had heard forty years ago.
I found the characters he created true and life-like, the plot well paced, and the dialogue crisp. (I'll go so far as to say that I cannot recall another first-book author whose dialogue was so life-like. Simmons seems to have a gift that experienced authors might envy.)
I did not find the pace of the narrative flag over the more than 230 pages, and the denouement came with an appropriate "slam-bang".
Okay, I did find scattered examples of "Americanisms" instead of proper British usage. (E.g., "pants" instead of trousers [there IS a difference!] and "give it a shot" instead of "have a go at it.) But these were few and far-between and did nothing to mar or otherwise detract from the narrative.
My only regret is that this was not published by a major publisher, for it deserves proper marketing, for I think Wipers has the makings of a best-seller. Moreover, with the centennial of The Great War only a few years off, I also think that Wipers could easily be turned into a highly successful screenplay.
The next thing I am going to do is to order several more copies, one especially for my son so he might have a better idea of what his grandfather experienced over ninety years ago.
The battles and battleground desciptions are bitingly real. The stench, the rats, the gas, the extreme violence, the decomposing bodies that were left stinking on the surrounding ground for months and years, the callous loss of life from any manner of fearful sources. All this is presented in a way that leaves the reader open-mouthed that more soldiers didn't just drop their rifles, walk out of the trenches and say to the rear command, "Just shoot me; it's better than what you are making me go through in the trenches."
Some reviewers criticize the lack of style in the prose and narrative used. Personally I found these elements were perfectly in keeping with what was essentially the tale of a simple, uneducated Englishman, relating one-on-one to his son. If I have a complaint in this aspect it's the "Americanisms" put into the mouth of this simple chap. The use of "fall" for Autumn, "pants" for trousers, and a Brit would never land on his "ass", this bloke would definitley have landed on his "arse".
Another minus for me was the "change of pace" in the middle of the account where the two principle characters get home leave that gives them three weeks in London, away from the horrors of war. This "romantic" interlude turns out to be an unnecessary interruption from the thrust of the story, that is is overlong, soppy and poorly presented. Far from being a break from the action it resulted in a serious flagging of interest for this reader.
However, I do heartily recommend the book for putting forward the horrific reality of a soldier's life in WW1.