Monday 12 October 2020

The Wars

Finished October 8
The Wars by Timothy Findley

I picket this up when I saw that it was on the list of books that had been banned in Canada in the past and I realized that I owned it. It was a fantastic read, as are all of the books I've read by Findley.
The main character here is Robert Ross, a young man from a privileged background that enlists impulsively following the accidental death of his sister Rowena. He holds guilt for not being with her to ensure her safety and Rowena's death sends his mother deeper into alcoholism.
Robert is shipped out west for training almost immediately, and while at Lethbridge looks for someone he can, finding it in an older officer, Eugene Taffler. It is also at Lethbridge that he begins spending significant time with horses as they capture wild horses to use in the war. His journey back east prompts introspection and it is only when onboard the ship to England that he gets close to another officer, in his case this is Harris, from Nova Scotia, a young man on his own, who soon gets ill. Robert takes over Harris's duties dealing with the horses on board the ship, and has a difficult experience when one of the horses is injured during rough seas. When they dock, both he and Harris are able to watch the offloading of the horses, as they swim ashore.
The prologue of this book shows a moment later in the war when Ross is again involved with horses and it is only near the end that one learns the context of this scene.
Robert has a strong moral and ethical center and it is this that causes his experiences in the war to affect him significantly. His wealth and upbringing have sheltered him, and caring for his disabled sister has given him a lot of empathy for those more disadvantaged than himself.
We watch the various events leading to his mental breakdown with sorrow as we know that his pain is real.
The scenes at the front were vivid and detailed and one got a real sense of the horrific situations these young men faced. Other traumas, from assaults on Ross himself to injuries from those he cared about were brought to life in a similarly vivid way.
This story is told by a person decades later, who is doing research on Robert Ross and what really happened to him and what led to the incident that ended the war for him. Their interviews with the nurse that looked after him and with the woman who was a young girl in the private hospital he spent time in more than once really exposed the personality of this young man. The scenes of his parents back in Canada were also meaningful in how they showed his background.
A great read.

1 comment:

  1. I seldom see this great novel mentioned on the internet. It's good to see it get more "air-time"!