Friday, September 09, 2005

BOOK REVIEW - "Soldier Boys."


Soldier Boys, by G. F. McCauley, General Store Publishing, 317 pages, $22.95

This well-researched novel is set in the Second World War, about a group of young men from Northern Ontario who volunteer for military service overseas with the Algonquin Regiment. The six friends call themselves “the Little League of Nations” because of their various national origins -- Ireland, Lebanon, Italy, Russia, a Cree Indian, and a French-Canadian. Author McCauley says he based much of this story on the wartime letters of an uncle who joined up as a youngster. He explains, “Like most of the men who made it home, my uncle never spoke about his war experience, but the letters he wrote to his family and the newspaper clippings the family collected were enough to get me going on the primary and secondary source material.”
McCauley handles language well, as befits an ex-Member of Parliament as he is, and tells the story from the viewpoint of the diary of Barney Berman, a Jewish youngster. He voices a running commentary of the training in Canada, long months of waiting in England, sexual encounters, savage battles in Northwest Europe, and brutal ill-treatment in a German prisoner-of-war camp His accounts of army life and combat are for the most part accurate, save a few minor technical errors. The author also has done his homework in gathering contemporary details about life in 1944, often alluding to everyday objects, sports, and entertainers of the era. The author takes the reader into the spirit of the era, and the story rattles along well, though it is a bit disconcerting when the 1944 character interjects information about a movie that was actually produced 20-odd years later. All in all, Soldier Boys can be read at two levels – as a fictional novel and a factual summary of experiences of Canadian soldiers 50 years ago.

-- Sidney Allinson.

1 comment:

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