Reviewed by Neil A White for Readers' Favorite
The Great War by Dawn Knox is an ambitious undertaking that recounts 100 stories, each told in exactly 100 words, on the 100th anniversary of WWI. At precisely 10,000 words, the book is a quick read, but the scenes that Ms. Knox’s sparse, yet vividly compelling prose evokes will resonate and remain with the reader for far longer. Aiding this imagery is the spacing of the stories; one brief story per page, giving the reader time to reflect before continuing. In fact, The Great War reads more like a book of poetry; if one would ever deign to call trench warfare poetic.
The stories themselves run the gamut of emotions; thoughts of home, thoughts of family members missing loved ones, comradeship on the front lines, the living hell of the trenches, to thoughts on God and the utter futility of their undertaking. And all recounted from the perspective of the English, French and German combatants, whom we learn have much in common.
One short passage sticks with me that perfectly encapsulated the war’s senselessness. Summing up a collective mindset of the combatants at the outset: A way to see the world, a lark, and a war that would soon be over. Only to quickly realize the utter desperation and hopelessness of their situation - if they lived.
“One man arrives in the trenches. He is young, strong and eager to engage in battle. He is warned to keep his head down but it is easy to forget this order when you’re young, strong and eager to engage in battle. Within minutes, the young soldier is dead. Another man arrives, keen to make his mark.”
Ms. Knox has produced a powerful piece of work to starkly remind us that our history should never be forgotten.