"...a masterful writer; descriptions of places, people and events are precise and dialogue is smart, natural and entirely believable. "
1914 World War I
Germany and Scotland
Make no mistake, Jim Burnside is a masterful writer; descriptions of places, people and events are precise and dialogue is smart, natural and entirely believable. Whilst some writers can make you believe you are watching a play, Burnside acts as the director of his own film, his camera sweeping around the characters so that they all get their say and present their point of view in their own individual voices. Jim MacDonald is the lead character until the battle of Nonne Boschen Wood (just outside Ypres) when his older brother Peter takes over the role. Both are volunteers and capable of buying themselves out of the army with no questions asked. Witnessing the horrors of battle and realising the futility of it all, both are inclined to do just that.
Jim dies (sorry for the spoiler, but there is no way to avoid it) and Peter returns home to Scotland on leave to break the news to their mother and other brothers. There he cements his relationship with the widow, Sorcha Murray and they plan to marry once Peter serves his last six months in the army.
This is the third book in a series subtitled Going Home and here I suffered my first disappointment: the only character I can recall from the previous two volumes is Hannah Harper who has a few references in this book and one very short appearance, despite being courted by their brother William. Despite this, it can very much be read as a stand alone.
I felt that the blurb on the back cover was a bit misleading; Jim is not mentioned by name and the focus appears to be on Peter, yet the latter is mentioned very little in the first half of the book as it is Jim's story and experiences that we read about. Maybe the cover could also be updated to a more attractive version on Amazon? (*image depicted above dated Dec 2018)
My third disappointment was that there were enough typos and formatting errors (one chapter suddenly appears as left justified before the book reverts to the correct format) to warrant a final edit.
One word of warning: readers unused to Scottish vernacular may struggle with some sections of dialogue – but having said that, not one word of it should be changed!
All in all, a powerful and thought-provoking book, perhaps a little overlong as some scenes may not have been necessary, so I strongly suggest that final edit and maybe be a bit stricter with the flow while doing so? Even so, this is one that I recommend.
© Richard Tearle
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