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I live in Bristol UK literary fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run

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The sacrifice and the slaughter

Private Peaceful - Michael Morpurgo

One of the most tragic events of the 20th century was the senseless slaughter and sacrifice of many young men on the battlefields of the Somme,Verdun and Passchendaele. The iconic 1914 recruitment poster of Lord Kitchener, wearing a cap of a British Field Marshall, stares and points at the viewer pleading to their sense of allegiance and responsibility by declaring..."Your country needs you" The specially constituted "pals battalions" resulted in friends, neighbours and colleagues enlisting together at local recruiting drives with the promise that they could serve alongside each other. However many of these battalions sustained heavy causalities and this had a significant impact on their communities at home.

 

In the small Devon town of Hatherleigh lives young Tommo Peaceful with his brother Charlie and the girl they both adore, Molly. This is family life, village life, captured in the idyllic Devon countryside before the encroachment and black clouds of world war 1 destroys the dreams and aspirations of so many in pointless sacrifice ensuring that life would never be the same again....."We'd lie amongst the grass and buttercups of the water meadows and look up at the clouds scudding across the sky, at the wind-whipped crows chasing a mewing buzzard"....Tommo and Charlie are gripped in the romantic notion of helping to eradicate the threat of the Hun who were attempting to grow their military might and realize their imperialistic ambitions. So the two brothers and close friends from the village march blindly off to war where the initial patriotic enthusiasm dies tragically amidst pointless butchering when the reality of war is revealed...."I could no longer pretend to myself that I believed in a merciful god nor in a heaven, not anymore, not after I had seen what men could do to one another. I could believe only in the hell I was living in, a hell on earth and it was man-made, not God-made"......."the terror that is engulfing me and invading me, destroying any last glimmer of courage and composure I may have left. All I have left now is my fear"....

 

Michael Morpurgo expertly portrays the senseless  slaughter and sacrifice of world war 1 to a young impressionable adult audience. This is achieved by comparing the beauty and peacefulness of the English countryside with the shell ravaged mud filled trenches of France....this was the raw reality of war. Private Peaceful is a sombre novel to be read by young and old. It's simplistic language is very effective in creating an image of a time when the romantic notion of war quickly became a vision of hell and where the loss of millions was seen as an acceptable price for the march of imperialism and the misguided ambitions  of WW1 military leaders. Highly Recommended.