Pierre Berton's Vimy is a riveting and very accessible study of the World War I victory that gave Canadians their first real taste of nationhood. But even though it's a work that contains a considerable amount of patriotic fervour, Vimy does not spare any of the nightmarish details of trench warfare. The barrage that signalled the first moments of the battle for Vimy Ridge, a muddy stretch of the front in the north of France, began exactly at 5:30 a.m. on April 9, 1917. In the hours that followed, the meticulously well-trained Canadian Corps would complete the first British victory in 32 months. This was the ridge where the French had sustained 150,000 casualties between 1914 and 1916; Canadian casualties numbered 10,000 through five months. No one expected this from the Canadians. By all rights, a Canadian Corps should never have existed. These four divisions of young men from across the country were not dispersed into British units only because Sam Hughes, Ottawa's hotheaded minister of militia and an infamous bully, refused to have it any other way. The other major factor that transformed the young Canadians into a cohesive force was the presence of two unusually innovative and sensible military leaders, Lieutenant-General Julian Byng and Major General Arthur Currie. Berton states that their "refusal to conform to outworn rules" meant that the Canadians learned from past mistakes on the front, unlike their haughty superiors, who failed to understand the nature of the first modern war and went on needlessly sacrificing soldiers whom they regarded as social inferiors. Instead, the Canadian leaders were in the thick of it and cared about the welfare of every man.
Berton's forte as a historian and writer is his ability to balance narrative details with big-picture events. Thus are the strategies of generals juxtaposed with anecdotes by and about the fighting men. Witness William Pecover, a Manitoba schoolteacher who, like many young Canadian men, signed up for war because he couldn't resist the lure of adventure--only to realize that his fantasy had nothing to do with trenchfoot, exhaustion, and German snipers. Of the day of the battle he wrote that "the conquered area through which we passed seemed strangely quiet. Here death reigned, and the agony of pain." Concise and well organized, considering the daunting complexity of the battle, Berton's book celebrates the achievement of the Canadians at Vimy without forgetting the appalling human toll. --Jason Anderson
"Among the most important and vital accounts of war that we have…it is inexcusable not to read it."
"…Vimy is Berton at his best and that's the best there is."
—Peter C. Newman
"A book to make us proud, to make us week."
Legendary author Pierre Berton writes another classic tome on Canada’s history. No other author has brought the chronicles of Canada to life as he has. Read morePublished 2 months ago by MS
Fantastic research, wonderful human stories, educational and moving at the same time. Pierre Berton at his best. A must read for every Canadian.Published 3 months ago by Rick McKelvie
The author engrossed my attention ,fired my imagination, and placed me in the midst of senseless death and mayhem. I couldn't be more satisfied .Published 14 months ago by paul mulhern
love the book great read depit what really happen in world war 1
and how even unfolded in that type of battle.
We are going to visit Vimy for the first time in a little over a month from now. I read the book in 1 day. Found it a moving account of what happened and why.Published on April 6 2013 by Elizabeth Duncan
This is not a blow-by-blow account of a First World War battle. What it is is a tale of how a young country, little more than a colony at the time, won a victory that was as much a... Read morePublished on Nov. 23 2012 by Daffy Bibliophile
Superbly written, painstakingly researched, and comprehensively detailed, this compelling account has all the makings of a great novel. Read morePublished on July 3 2012 by freeps
VIMY by Pierre Berton combines a pivotal moment in the history of our country with a chronicle of the lives and the events surrounding it. Read morePublished on June 3 2012 by Arjole
The Battle of Vimy Ridge wasn't just a major victory for Canadians, it was a cornerstone in the building of a nation. Read morePublished on March 30 2011 by Michael Evans