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

Tim Cook
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 40.00
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Book Description

Oct. 9 2007

At the Sharp End covers the harrowing early battles of World War One, when tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands, died, before the generals and soldiers found ways to break the terrible stalemate of the front. It 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’ eyewitness accounts is moving and thoroughly engrossing. At The Sharp End is the first comprehensive history of Canadians in World War One in 40 years. It heralds a growing interest in World War One history with a CBC documentary currently under development. Acclaimed Canadian actor Paul Gross is starring in a $20-million feature film to be released in summer 2007.


Frequently Bought Together

At the Sharp End: Canadians Fighting the Great War 1914-1916 + Shock Troops Canadians Fighting The Great War 1917-18 + Warlords: Borden, Mackenzie King and Canada's World Wars
Price For All Three: CDN$ 71.48

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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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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mud and Blood in the Trenches Nov. 19 2007
By Old Dog
This is the first volume in a two-set history of Canadians in the Great War. This first volume is a tour de force from one of Canada's leading military historians. Based on a wide range of books and academic articles, as well as newly uncovered archival sources (and one marvels at the breadth sources displayed in the footnotes), Cook has produced the most important history ever put into print on the subject of Canadians fighting the Great War.

The author has clearly been studying this subject for years, as the details of battles and the experience of soldiers in combat are among the best in print. From the banality of trench warfare to the titanic battles of Second Ypres, Mount Sorrel, and the Somme, this book presents history as it should be. The words of the soldiers guide us in this tale, but its not just first-hand accounts strung together, as Cook offers deep insight into all levels of war: from the strategic to the operational, from tactics to individuals. In addition, tactics, weapons, and emerging doctrines are meshed with issues of combat motivation, medicine, and the importance of leave. While much of this has been covered by other historians over the years, no one to my mind has ever done it in such detail and with such verve.

Cook has done a great service to this generation that gave so much for their country. I simply can’t wait to read volume II.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The emergence of a nation Nov. 16 2007
This book is a great triumph for Dr. Cook and from every page oozes both his passion for the subject matter and his commitment to the sheer hard-work involved in being a real historian.

Canadians should be proud of the heroic history detailed in these pages, but this book goes far beyond the average re-telling of familiar stories (at least, they used to be) and reminds us of the experiences of the everyman, the citizen-soldier of the Canadian Corps. These men saw unspeakable horrors yet still struggled on to maintain their own identities and to forge a new meaning, a new reality for their nation.

Yet this book does not only speak to these grand visions, it delves into the reality of being a soldier fighting for Canada in the Great War. We mustn't forget that on a day-to-day basis, reality meant staving off not the might of the Kaiser's forces, but rather boredom and the effects of squalid conditions. The humour, the camaraderie, the songs, the anti-authority opinions, the art, the experiences of young men being in a totally alien environment, are all part of this rich tapestry.

This book deserves a place on the bookshelves of all Canadians, and indeed of all those interested in the human experience of warfare in any time and place.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History at its finest. Nov. 4 2007
This is a brilliant work. The writing is engaging, perceptive and intellectual. Cook gets into the minds of all elements of the Canadian Corps and at times you feel that you are also part of the fog of battle. Canada, a nation that unfortunately makes its heroes smaller than life, should be grateful to Tim Cook for giving our Great War veterans their proper legacy in the 21st century.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full of interesting tidbits May 9 2008
This book has all the usual information ref battles and battle lines, but goes further with interesting insight and tidbits of information not found in the average World War 1 narrative. For example, did you know that the CEF suffered the highest VD rate of any force on the Western Front? Not sure where Cook gets his info, and how accurate it is, but well worth the read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Horrors of The Great War Nov. 6 2008
By G. Poirier TOP 50 REVIEWER
It is difficult, if not impossible, for most of us to visualize the ghastly horrors that humans can inflict upon each other on the battlefield. But a war becomes an indescribable nightmare for those who live and fight through one. Consequently, the Great War was never forgotten by those who fought in it and survived; and through books such as this one, the rest of us can get a brief glimpse of what they went through. After briefly setting the international scene leading up to the Great War, the author focuses on the Canadians, including initial reactions in Canada, enrollment, organization, equipment, training and fighting. This volume covers the war up until the end of 1916, or more precisely, to the end of the Battles of the Somme; a second volume covers the rest of the war. Although the focus is on the Canadians (the infantry), the author also discusses involvement by other countries, especially British forces. The writing style is clear, authoritative, accessible and very engaging. The detailed accounts given of the soldiers' lives in the infantry and especially in the trenches, and the carnage that they suffered while in battle could hardly be better described; in fact, many passages leave the reader with a heavy heart. This is an excellent book that can be read and appreciated by absolutely anyone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on the C.E.F I have read to date!! Feb. 3 2008
This book is flat out excellence! the only other narrative history that compares is "The Thin Red Line" by Julian Spilsbury (its about the Crimean war).Creating this kind of historical material is fantastic, I think all Canadians should have to read this and find out how their Grandfathers and Great Grandfathers lived. There are some familiar sources in the book (Private Fraser for example) which is available through CEF Books.

I really cannot wait for volume II but I am guessing I will be waiting a while, even so this is a fantastic book possibly the best on the subject I have yet to read. Fully recommended to both history enthusiasts and people who aren't buffs its easily readable and understandable by even a casual reader with little knowledge of military terminology or tactics. Mr.Cook does a fine job of explaining these aspects all the while keeping the personal experiences poring through giving the book a less academic and more personal perspective.

Although this book could very well be an academic history book, because he has missed nothing!I am almost sad to have finished it, and highly suggest all Canadians of all walks read this book and gain a true appreciation for the people that fought, the wounded, the scarred and traumatized and the ones who paid the supreme sacrifice, to make our great country what it is today.

It was 90 odd years ago and the last of the vets have died, and our WWII vets are fewer and fewer in number every November 11th. The only way we will be able to fully appreciate our for fathers is to keep their experiences, their words and their legacy alive.

The Men of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and the women who served were every bit our founding fathers as those in the 1860's who founded responsible government.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The best history of the Canadian Forces in World War 1 First part
A superlative two part history of the Canadian Forces in WW1 this one including the Battle of Vimy Ridge, where my paternal Scottish Great Uncle was killed with the Fife and... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Robert T. Boyter
5.0 out of 5 stars Undoubtedly One of the Best Accounts
When you first pick up "At the Sharp End" you'll be amazed at how much this definitive two-volume history of the Great War reads like a carefully choreographed, personal narrative... Read more
Published on March 26 2010 by Ian Gordon Malcomson
5.0 out of 5 stars A Louse Level Look at Life in the Trenches
A stark reminder of what a pitiful job we do of telling the story of Canada's contribution to the modern world - except for books like this one. Read more
Published on Dec 28 2009 by Kelly G. Dundas
5.0 out of 5 stars Add to your list of necessary reading
I couldn't believe how well written this series of books was. Beautiful story telling with attention to detail. Read more
Published on Dec 9 2009 by Lori Davenport
4.0 out of 5 stars Incredible details!
Mr. Cook seems to cover all aspects of trench warfare. If you are looking to understand what life was like on the Western front, this is the book for you. Read more
Published on Jan. 11 2008 by Patrick Sullivan
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sympathetic History in Plain English
This book does not conform to the typical conception of works of history being dense, hard to read lists of names, dates and obsure locations. Dr. Read more
Published on Dec 6 2007 by R. Lindsay
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