Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Wars

Unlike a large amount of Canadian teenagers, I somehow missed out on reading Timothy Findley in school. Yet, somehow I still closely associate him with the Canadian high school experience. In reading The Wars, Findley's novel of World War 1, I felt transported back to grade 11, unfortunately not in a particularly good way.

Robert Ross, a nineteen-year-old Ontario boy, shortly after the death of his beloved sister, signs up for war. This sends his family into a bit of a tail spin, adding a side plot to the story. The novel follows Robert through training as an officer, to France and his days in the trenches. Robert ultimately suffers from, what is now known to be, post-traumatic stress disorder and rebels against the institution of war in one desperate act to save the lives of horses.

The story is told from an interesting point of view. Someone is researching Robert's story and letting us in on what he discovers. As an archivist, I am always happy to see one pop up in a novel, so having the researching angle would normally entice me. But in this novel it feels too undeveloped, like the story of Robert's family, Findley does not spend time showing us their world, but only uses them as a convenient mechanism for the development of Robert's plot. It leaves their bits feeling forced and unimportant, taking away from rather than adding to the novel.

Overall, the book reads like something out of those old school readers. Some great examples of literary technique for a grey haired high school teacher to lecture for what-feels-like-hours about while his students pass notes and nap.


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