I’m doing a rare book review for a writing buddy, Richard Barnes. We have both published books in the last year from the same publisher. It’s a good book, about The Great War. Below is the text I used for several other reviews I’ve posted.
The release of Enemies was well-timed, coinciding with the centennial of the War To End All Wars. What we are presented with is a story within a story — something I can’t say very much about or I would divulge spoilers … but I will say the secondary story reflects events roughly fifty years after the war so in that respect those events are fifty years ago. With this, the author created an ingenious vehicle to combine the past with that present.
Ah, but the war, it’s mostly about the war. It follows two young men, one a young Canadian fighting for God, King, and Country, and a young German, fighting for the glory of the Kaiser and the Fatherland. Despite the obvious differences, i.e. fighting for the opposing forces, they follow very similar tracks in their respective journeys to the front.
Most “war stories” tend to dwell upon the big picture and the generals but Barnes effectively brings us an intimate portrayal of what I like to call the real war. Main characters Brian and Jurgens both suffer through the training and the boredom outside of combat. They both dwell upon questions of “what if” regarding hasty pre-war almost-romances. They both have close friendships and rough relationships while in the service and they both endure loss from the ranks of those associations. And of course, they are both thrust into situations no young person should ever have to endure, never knowing what the big picture of what they are doing is supposed to be, never knowing if the screaming death of constant shelling will find them, never knowing if a they will be called away by an unseen sniper’s bullet, never knowing if the next trench, the next whistle blow, or the next muddy water filled crater will be the last thing they see or hear on this earth.
I have a degree in History and am a student of this war and I have to give Barnes credit, he puts the reader right there in the trenches ON BOTH SIDES. His research was spot on and his military background gave him insight into a front line soldier’s mind. That he can convey that into a work of fiction is remarkable.
I think any reader will enjoy this work … it is not just a war story, it is a story of the human condition, the fears and frailties, the hopes and dreams, and ultimately it is a story of remembrance and resolution.