Monday, 28 April 2014

Stories of World War One

Stories of World War One
ed. Tony Bradman
London, Orchard, 2014, 304p

Memorials to the First World War will come in many forms this year, but Tony Bradman is one of the greatest editors of short stories today. This collection has vast variety and a great selection of authors to read.

My favourite story was The Men Who Wouldn't Sleep by Tim Bowler, which is about a young boy who volunteers at a hospital for returning soldiers. There, Robbie meets Bert and Jimmy, two injured soldiers. Bert is incredibly protective of Jimmy, who sits in a trance like state, unable or unwilling to talk to anyone. Robbie is assigned to sit and talk with Jimmy - at first, he struggles to know what to say, but soon he finds himself sharing his worries about his father, who is lost in France. It is a touching, tragic story; one of many in this collection that stay with you long after you have finished reading.

There are stories set on the home front and on the front line, in France, England, Ireland and elsewhere. Some are about the young and others are about older soldiers. Each of the authors tackles a different element of war, such as the separation of childhood sweethearts, mothers' fears about their sons, and young boys in the trenches. There is a brilliant contribution from Children's Laureate, Malorie Blackman, which explores the relationship between two half brothers on the front line, torn between their love for each other and masculine pride.

Although I didn't feel that the collection began with a particularly strong story, I liked the way these stories brought the war into the present, making it accessible for modern teenage readers. There is a story for everyone in this book, though you may have to read them all to find the one for you.

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