Title: When the Guns Fall Silent
Author: James Riordan
On the Shelves: Young Adult> Historical Fiction
Jack, standing among the war graves, sees a face he recognizes. Suddenly, it’s 1914 again and he’s a young lad back in the trenches. Visions of killing and misery come to him with horrible clarity.
But then Jack remembers too the incredible moment when the guns fell silent for a short time, and fighting gave way to football on the frozen ground of No-Man’s-Land.
This amazing story, based on true facts from the First World War, will transport readers back to the war fields of France and show that even in times of conflict and extreme sadness, there is always hope (Goodreads 2014)
I bought this book in the 24 hour sale on Book Depository back in March, where they slash the prices by like 90%, so I scored it for a whopping £2.50 or so- and I knew I’d save it for reading it around Remembrance Day.
I recently wrote my Masters dissertation surrounding the topic of military veterans, so I’ve been really in the mood for reading fiction books surrounding the issues they faced, both contemporary and historically- especially historically. Before World War 1, soldiers would be shot for cowardice if they showed signs of what we now know to be PTSD.
I’ve always been interested in World War 1 history, and this book specifically follows the events of Christmas 1914. As most people are aware, the Allies believed the war would basically be a brief stint in France and it would be over for Christmas… it wasn’t. However, something bizarre and heart-warmingly human occurred in the midst of No Man’s Land territory on Christmas Day 1914. At midnight, both English and German troops could hear each other singing Christmas carols in the their trenches, which led to them eventually agreeing a temporary truce on Christmas Day, to play a game of football over No Man’s Land, where for the past 6 months, and for the next four years, it would be rare for a soldier to walk on that space of land and not be killed brutally in different ways within seconds of going Over the Top.
They played football.
I think it is great that this author chose to immortalise this factual event in fiction, and bring some of the humanity of the soldiers who lost their lives out of black and white names and into full colour. This book is aimed at younger audiences, not different to- for example, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, and it just helps to see every soldier as a person with their own family, and friends, just as scared and confused as everyone else, instead of just a name on a sheet of paper next to the phrase “Killed in Action/Missing in Action”.
This is only a short book, but I personally feel that the content speaks volumes and is important to be remembered. I highly recommend this quick read to anyone wanting to read some World War 1 fiction based on an actual war time event.