Dear Great Book Guru, I was at the victory party last week for Village Trustees Kevin McGilloway and Elena Villafane and Justice John Reali at the McGilloways’ beautiful home when conversation turned to – what else ?- books! Carol Vogt, a great student of history, reminded us that 2014 is the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I, a subject I am very interested in. I wonder if you have a book to recommend about that “war to end all wars”? History Buff
Dear History Buff, I just finished a short novel (118 pages): 1914 by Jean Echenoz. This is a story of five young men from a small village in the Loire Valley of west central France whose lives are forever changed when their village bells begin to toll on a lovely summer Saturday afternoon, calling them to war. Anthime is bicycling through the village on his way to a picnic, Charles is experimenting with his new Reve Ideal camera, while Padioleau, Bossis, and Arcenel, three friends, are enjoying the afternoon at a local café. While all realize the war has begun for them, they believe it will end quickly, perhaps in two weeks or so. Their concerns at first are of attractive uniforms and romantic farewells. Of course, all of this changes . Echenoz relates, almost dispassionately, the horrors these five Frenchmen endure, but this only underscores his fury at the absurd savagery of war. There is no beauty, no grace, no redemption in this account of- as it was called- the Great War.