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The Wars (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – Jun 28 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 198 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Canada; 1 edition (June 28 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143051423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143051428
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #48,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

Timothy Findley's slim, dense novel The Wars offers nothing short of an explanation of human violence. However alien or mad Findley's World War I events become, war itself is repeatedly depicted as damnably quotidian. A front-line nurse confesses, "the passions involved were as ordinary as me and my sister fighting over who's going to cook the dinner. And who won't." Bringing Dostoyevsky's moral palette to the trenches of the Great War, The Wars seems compelled to reveal how the same men who save one another's lives will also torture trench rats or stray cats for sport.

Written in surgically precise prose and studded with unforgettable scenes and memorable characters, The Wars is Findley at his best. In Cambridgeshire are "towns with names like Camden Lights and Grantchester--roads that wind past canals and over bridges--whirl you round a hundred village greens, scattering geese and waving at children--whip you past the naked swimmers in the ponds and deposit you at inn yards where the smell of ale and apples makes you drunk before you've passed the gate." Informed, compassionate, and insightful, The Wars is uniquely sensitive to the causes of social division and union. --Darryl Whetter --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

'The ferocious truth of a work of art.' The New Yorker 'The Wars is quite simply one of the best novels of the Great War. A magnificent book.' Province Vancouver --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Lakusta on June 6 2007
Format: Paperback
I am surprised at the reviews of this novel. I see some people claiming to have literally burned this book and I see a ?teacher? who condemns a Governor General?s Award winning novel without the courtesy of proper punctuation or even capital letters. And I see people claiming that this novel is the greatest ever produced by a Canadian. The truth is somewhere in between. But make no mistake: it is a classic for good reason.

Anger comes from confusion so it is no surprise to see many angry people reacting to ?The Wars?. It is a difficult read. Robert Ross is a difficult character to identify with because Findley holds him at arm?s length for almost the entire novel. The only instances I remember where the reader is given direct access to Robert?s innermost thoughts are in the opening section, before he enlists in the army. From there we are shown his actions and only the most obvious of thoughts. Much of the novel is presented as hearsay, where the reader sees the toll the war takes on both his family and personal life, and this is perhaps the reason for the negative reviews here: the reader cannot become attached to Robert Ross. Findley does not present empathy as an option. We are forced to examine his actions coolly with little emotion involved save the horror of killing or the pleasure of love. What does this say about Findley?s goal with this novel? Why does he not allow us to be close to Robert Ross? Because he is not a hero. He is not a great man. He was the average soldier (or officer, in this case) and his trials were average for the Great War.

This is a novel about World War One written sixty years (or so) after the armistice, and we are now approaching its one hundred year anniversary.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 3 1999
Format: Paperback
Every once in a while I come across a book which I can't quite really get into, but I'm not sure why exactly. The Wars is just such a book. Perhaps it gets too buried in hidden motifs and literary allusions and the cleverness of the chronology that it alienates the reader.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Aug. 27 1998
Format: Paperback
Findley's writings are reader friendly, and the story flows smoothly enough. However the plot consists of hardly related incidents and the absence of a constant antagonist creates a bit of an aimless drift. Nevertheless, the images are vivid and the theme is poignant.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Quetzal on March 27 2007
Format: Paperback
From reading the other reviews for 'The Wars' by Timothy Findley it looks like they eithered loved this book or really hated it. Me I come somewhere down the middle since Findley does a comendable job when describing the terror and unreality of being on the front line of war, but he loses me with the abstract tone of the story with its changing narratives (from the archivest looking at pictures of Robert Ross,to interviews with two people that knew Ross, and normal third person ominiscent narrative). Because of it I couldn`t get a strong emotional connection to the main character.
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Format: Paperback
A teacher acquaintance of mine told me The Wars was a popular choice as a high school book study selection. It’s short, it’s Canadian, it contains small and age-appropriate doses of violence and sex, and finally, is full of stuff English teachers like. For instance, plenty of metaphors. The title itself, the plural of ‘war’, refers to the various struggles the main characters go through, not all of which relate to the First World War.

The book revolves around the son of a prominent Toronto businessman named Robert Ross who enlists as an officer in the Canadian Artillery in 1915. The book starts off right before Robert enlists, focusing not only on Robert but also his mother and, later, the soldiers he meets and befriends. The novel is part mystery: at the outset we find out that Leftenant Robert did something really bad in Belgium, in a small wood near Ypres. We’re not sure at all what it is he did, but we know Robert died and that his death is related to this infamous incident.

The narrative voice flits between third person perspectives and the second person perspective of an archivist researching Robert Ross (“You look at a photo of Robert riding a stallion. On the back of the grainy photo is the year, 1913″). The archivist interviews various people who knew Robert before and during the war. It’s a creative way of writing. Throughout the novel, the author breaks through the “fourth wall” and talks directly to the reader. When a secondary character, Robert’s friend, is killed on the front line, the author reminds you that “632,234 souls preceded him”. The war scenes are legitimately scary without being too violent. We barely meet any Germans, but the author makes war terrifying nonetheless.

The characters in the story itself are kind of weak.
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Format: Paperback
I feel as though, reading through all of the reviews of this novel, that I must not have read the same book as those who gave this book poor ratings. I believe it is honestly one of the best books I have ever read.
Yes, the characters are not normal--but they start off that way. It is the war that tears apart their family, turns them into killers, forces them to commit acts of depravity. Yes, Ross is a very complex character--but not to begin with. He begins as a simple, if not naive young adult in Canada and ends a mad, misunderstood soldier in Europe. Yes, Findley changes the narrative every 20 pages or so and yes, it can be confusing. But the book is about finding the humanity in the inhumanity of war by taking a look at a fictional but personal case. Findley's aim is not neatly tying up loose ends and making everything "fit" but unravelling tied ends and showing that nothing "fits."
If you enjoy happy endings that give easy answers and generic lessons, read another book. Findley's work is complicated, disturbing, and heavy and I for one enjoyed it. It's a book I still think about years after reading it and would recommend not "burning it to the ground" as some other critics have suggested, but leaving it until one is mature enough to comprehend its brevity.
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