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At the Sharp End Volume One: Canadians Fighting The Great War 1914-1918 Paperback – Sep 29 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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  • At the Sharp End Volume One: Canadians Fighting The Great War 1914-1918
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  • Shock Troops: Canadians Fighting The Great War 1917-1918 Volume Two
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  • The Necessary War Vol. 1: Canadians Fighting The Second World War:1939-1943
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Canada (Sept. 29 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143055925
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143055921
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 3.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 771 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #70,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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.


Customer Reviews

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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.
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I'd be surprised to learn there was any, other, serious competitor for the title of best book on its topic-- a thorough examination of the role of Canadian infantry in World War I. My only reservation is that, as an institutional historian, the author seems a little inclined to the view that the generals knew what they were doing and all the sacrifice was ultimately worth it. The generals didn't-- read Cook's own volume 2 to see how they often abandoned the winning strategies they had so painfully learned in order to yet again throw troops into hopeless situations-- and the consequences of that war: the Russian Bolshevik Revolution, the collapse of the German economy, the rise of Hitler, and the Holocaust certainly do not justify any suggestion that the sacrifice of so many lives was somehow worth it anything. (Also, hints that British PM Lloyd George was a decent man must be balanced against that man's subsequent role in the attempt to partition Turkey., but that's off-topic.) This is an excellent book for learning what the Canadian troops endured in the first part of WWI, and the same praise applies to volume Two's portrayal of the second part of that war-- although, in reading that 2nd volume, the extent of the waste of human life does become nauseating.
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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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What this book delivers is one thing all history books strive to be: Readable. Tim Cook does an excellent job weaving a narrative of Canadians in WW1 that anyone can pick up and read. There is a lot of got information in this book that many will find interesting. I do recommend that you do not let too many younger readers this book as there is some very gory details and harsh language. Great product however!
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This is a very thorough and readable history of an appalling slaughter on the western front over four years.

(Now find someone to review my book Earliest Toronto by Robert M MacIntosh on e-books)
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