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At the Sharp End: Canadians Fighting the Great War 1914-1916 [Paperback]

Tim Cook
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 26.00
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Book Description

Sept. 29 2009

The first comprehensive history of Canadians in WWI in forty years, and already hailed as the definitive work on Canadians in the Great War, At the Sharp End covers the harrowing early battles of 1914—16. Tens of thousands, and then hundreds of thousands, died before the generals and soldiers found a way to break the terrible stalemate of the front. Based on eyewitness accounts detailed in the letters of ordinary soldiers, Cook describes the horrible struggle, first to survive in battle, and then to drive the Germans back. At the Sharp End provides both an intimate look at the Canadian men in the trenches and an authoritative account of the slow evolution in tactics, weapons, and advancement. Featuring never-before-published photographs, letters, diaries, and maps, this recounting of the Great War through the soldiers' eyes is moving, engaging, and thoroughly engrossing.


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At the Sharp End: Canadians Fighting the Great War 1914-1916 + Shock Troops: Canadians Fighting the Great War 1917-1918 + Madman And The Butcher, The
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About the Author

TIM COOK is the Great War historian at the Canadian War Museum, as well as an adjunct professor at Carleton University. His books have won numerous awards, including the 2008 J.W. Dafoe Prize for At the Sharp End and the 2009 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction for Shock Troops. In 2013, he received the Pierre Berton Award for popularizing Canadian history. He lives in Ottawa with his family.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars On-Time, Perfect Condition Sept. 11 2013
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This is an amazing book. It's detailed, oh so detailed, and written in a way that makes it an engaging read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Rigorous and highly readable Dec 26 2012
I read a lot of military history, and I've come to know that many military historians are BORING writers. Pierre Berton is great, but Tim Cook is maybe better; equally readable while not as rah-rah-rah. This book - and its equally excellent sequel - break the mold. This book is a well-written, brilliantly researched account of a neglected history. Cook doesn't just talk battles, he talks people, lives and society in the trenches. Don't be put off by the length; it's worth your time.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read book on Canadian Corps July 26 2014
By Matthew Lerner - Published on Amazon.com
As Cook makes clear in his introduction, it is not an exhaustive look at Canada during the war. It solely focuses on the Canadian Corps, the army faction that fought; there is nothing about the air corps, navy, home front, and aside from brief mentions of Sam Hughes (minister of militia until 1916), no political details. As the title states, it starts from the Canadian entry into the war alongside the UK in 1914, and ends with the conclusion of the Battle of the Somme in October 1916.

The writing is very clear and straight-forward, and makes great use of quotations from memoirs and letters from soldiers at the front. Cook does a good job to present the horrors that the soldiers had to face, making constant references to the conditions of the trenches, often noting the presence of decaying bodies and human remains scattered about. Naturally, the artillery that characterised the front is also detailed, sometimes preceding the mention of the dead and wounded.

The individual is a constant theme throughout the book. As Cook makes heavy use of soldier's writings, he focuses on them at times; for example, in several instances he will go to lengths detailing how various soldiers acted during a battle, giving the reader a close-up perspective on how it felt. This has a certain effect, amplified as some of these accounts are closed by the somber note that the soldier was later wounded or, quite often, killed later on. Though Cook focuses on the front-line soldiers, he also takes time to detail the officer corps, noting the political aspects that gripped the leadership of the Canadian military to some extent.

Though heavily focused on the battles the Canadians took part in (Second Ypres, St. Julien, Festubert, Somme, to name some), Cook also spends a good amount detailing the other aspects of the war. Chapters explaining the construction and maintenance of the trench system, the rotation of units, their training, and the medical system are just some of the topics covered, giving a more rounded and nuanced impression of life for the soldiers.
5.0 out of 5 stars Tim Cook manages to write a fascinating and very readable book on Canada's role in World War One, telling a story that cries out March 26 2014
By Brad W - Published on Amazon.com
Tim Cook manages to write a fascinating and very readable book on Canada's role in World War One, telling a story that cries out to be retold. For some reason or other Canadians have forgotten that the Canadian Army was the elite fighting force in the Great War and this book is a reminder to us all. It is one of three books written by Cook on the First World War. This one covers 1914-1916, the period in which the CEF comes into existence and takes its basic form. It includes a lot of colourful political battles between Sam Hughes and well, everyone else. Cook has another book on the battles between Sam Hughes and General Curry but this book covers a period in which Hughes and Curry were on relatively good terms while Sam Hughes was taking on the British military establishment in the usual Hughes manner--meaning with manic energy. The book includes portraits of many Canadian and British leaders of the time that helped shape the war. I have to say that I admired how Cook managed to juggle the different stories, moving from the British high command, the British government, to the emerging Canadian generals, Prime Minister Borden in Ottawa, Sam Hughes, General Byng, etc. With the century mark coming up on the beginning of World War One it is one of the books that you ought to read. Tim Cook's three books are probably the best books on Canada's role in W W 1; the best that I have ever read anyhow, and I think I've read it all. It can easily be read by the average reader, but serious enough to please the palate of a historian.
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