Storm in FlandersPosted: 2007/11/26
Groom, Winston. A Storm in Flanders: The Ypres Salient, 1914 – 1918: Tragedy and Triumph on the Western Front. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2001.
I’m thinking I shouldn’t have picked this book up in the middle of my current state of mind. Don’t get me wrong, Groom’s history on World War I is impressive. Between the diary accounts, breathtaking pictures and easy language (he called someone a ”military nut” and someone else “butt-headed”), this wasn’t a dry read. I know more about military warfare than ever before. For example, I learned WWI was Hitler’s introduction to war, paved the way for him, so to speak. The Germans were the first to introduce poison-gas (mustard gas) warfare; and I now know the meaning behind the poppy-like flowers veterans sell outside the grocery store. I always bought them and hung them in Gabriel without knowing why.
There is humor to Groom’s language: “While the Germans pondered their next move, there was a four-day lull in the fighting – if you can call taking thousands of casualties a day a “lull” (p 51) and “…Germans binged on a gluttony of pork until they were virtually wursted and brattened to their limits” (p 119).
Since Christmas is fast approaching I am drawn to the story Groom tells of Christmas 1914 when both sides put down their weapons and pretended to be friends for a day, exchanging gifts, singing carols, playing games and even laughing with one another. Yet, when the day was over they went back to killing one another.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter “World War I Nonfiction” (p 251). Pearl points out that Groom writes with compassion for the soldiers and I couldn’t agree more. I think that compassion is what makes this book so interesting.