Author: Theresa Breslin
On the Shelves: Young Adult Fiction> Historical Fiction
1915 – Scotland. A group of teenagers from two families meet for a picnic, but the war across the Channel is soon to tear them away from such youthful pleasures. All too soon the horror of what is to become known as The Great War engulfs them, their friends and the whole village. From the horror of the trenches, to the devastating reality seen daily by those nursing the wounded, they struggle to survive. Nothing will ever be the same again. REMEMBRANCE is a powerful and engrossing novel about love and war, from the Carnegie Medal-winning author Theresa Breslin. (Goodreads 2014)
“You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye, who cheer when soldier lads march by,
sneak home and pray you never know the hell where youth and laughter go” – Siegfried Sassoon
I first need to thank the author, Theresa Breslin and the publishers at RHCP Digital, for allowing me access via netgalley to this book, in exchange for an honest review.
I requested this book specifically, because this year I wanted to read some fiction/non-fiction relating to World War 1, since 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the start of one of the largest and most tragic loses of life in the 20th century. I also have a book of Siegfried Sassoon’s poetry which I plan to get around to soon.
This book discusses a very tricky topic very respectfully. It has characters who represent almost everybody who suffered and fought at the hands of this time of conflict. You have characters who are the patriotic soldiers who can’t wait to go to war, you have a pacifist who does not want to fight at all and puts off enlisting until he is conscripted. You have young women who are contrasting with their mothers because of the suffragette movement and wanting to do their part for the war effort, by working in the hospitals or munitions factories, whereas their mother’s idea of that is to hold tea afternoons to raise money. You witness the effects of the conflict realistically, both on the soldiers themselves, and their surrounding family and friends, and the severe consequences it came with.The range of personalities and empathy covered in this book is absolutely fantastic, and like I said, so respectfully written.
The book also talks about the issues which came from the fighting in a good, honest manner. For those who don’t know, I recently completed my masters dissertation, in which I wound up doing quite a bit of reading about Soldier’s ordeals in world war 1 and how it affected the stigma of mental health in Britain throughout the 20th century- of course researching and discussing attitudes towards Shell Shock and “Nerves” and the opinions that came with it was included. There were soldiers who couldn’t stop shaking or crying because of being exposed to the conflict for so long, and instead of treating them or giving them leave, they were punished- one soldier was tied up and left out in “No Man’s Land” all night long because of it. You’ve got to remember, you think the British attitudes towards mental health are bad now? It was absolutely horrible way back in 1914 when lads were expected to always keep a “Stiff upper lip” and not make a fuss and lay down their lives for a duty they grew to disbelieve in.
Those who were sent home due to bad shell shock and anti-war views (which were seen as Treason and which they originally shot them for), were often sent to a mental hospital, out of sight, out of mind, and most importantly, out of society. The spoils of war hidden away behind the curtain where the civilians cannot see that war isn’t such a grand thing after all. Siegfried Sassoon was one of the first cases- I highly recommend his poetry, I’ve already read a fair few of them and they are raw but so poignant. I also recommend Rudyard Kipling.
Back on the topic of the book specifically, though. Remembrance drew me in right away. I was immediately attached to every character, and I knew that would be lethal because obviously, with the setting of the book being what it is…this book was going to break my heart in some way. But it was so good. I honestly have nothing but praise for this book and highly recommend it!
“Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back with dying eyes and lolling heads-
those ashen-grey masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?
Have you forgotten yet?…
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget“
– Siegfried Sassoon, Aftermath (March 1919)