Wednesday, 7 November 2018

This Ghastly Affair - Jerome Farrell

At the end of the four year period of remembrance of World War One, I took this book off the shelf as a Remembrance Read, something I do every year - read a book based in either WW1 or WW2; sometimes about one side, sometimes the other; sometimes about civilian life, sometimes the life of those who fought and lived, and sometimes those who fought and died.

Every one of the books I have read about the two world wars, whether fiction or not, over the years, has educated me in a way that school never could, and in any case, the years I was at school,  "history" was something that  had old kings and queens in it, and something called strip farming, oh! and the Romans.  Thank goodness I am interested in things and always want to find out more. ( It wasn't until I watched the complete series of The World at War, narrated by Sir Lawrence Olivier that I knew anything about WW2).  

This one came into my hands about a year ago as a birthday gift from a friend.  I purposely saved it until this year so that I could read it around the time of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice on 11 November 2018.

The book describes a very small part of WW1 in letters, not to family or friends, but to the same employer, The Leathersellers Company;  one of the City of London's ancient Livery Companies.  The author (Archivist for the Leathersellers) found, in amongst personnel files in the the archives, some letters written on flimsy paper, and all addressed to the Clerk of the Leathersellers.  It become clear very quickly that these were letters from the front line sent to the mens' employer - who, incidentally,  kept their positions open if (with luck) they should return from war, and also sent half pay to either their wives or families for the duration.

War has no fascination for me, a peace loving woman, but somehow, politicians and their supporters of all colours and creeds seem not to be able to make (and keep) the peace for long, anywhere in the world.  However, this is not a book not about defeating an enemy, but about how it felt to be a serving man who only went to war for love of country and in the hope that he could perhaps have some effect on the shortening of the ghastly affair, this is worth taking the time to seek out.  Three different stories about the lives of three different men - fascinating, haunting, and full of facts that I didn't know but am glad I do now.

I guess that public libraries would be the place to go to get hold of this for a read, as I see that Amazon has only  secondhand copies currently.  All proceeds are to go to the British Red Cross, so perhaps worth contacting the Leathersellers themselves if you want to buy one.

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