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An excellent read about two men from different backgrounds and how they managed to become friends in a very difficult environment. The author gave a very in depth history of these two men and how their characters where shaped before they came into the Second World War. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about Canada's involvement in World War Two. Even though these men were soldiers, the author showed their 'human side'.
I consider a book a good read when it stays with me after I have read it. This is one of those books. It made me reflect on how different the world was during the war years - how people had such a different view of life and honour and priorities. The authour has obviously done considerable research to capture the essence of that time. Even though he wasn't able to receive direct information from his father(the Canadian soldier), he was able to tell a very credible story of his father's involvement in the war. Actually finding Frank (the German soldier), and being able to tell his version of the war years makes for interesting reading. I learned much about pre-war Germany and the surrounding countries and their people - including the prejudice that existed before the war and then was exacerbated by the war. There are many historical facts in the book which at times, astound and at times, appall. It is a story of naivete and courage, of evil and generosity, of ignorance and arrogance, of the ugliness of war, but also how people can sometimes see beyond the hatred to reach out to each other in kindness. The whole story of finding a lone letter written many years ago, and then tracing the origins of the letter is a fascinating one. It was obviously a work of love for the authour and he written a splendid book.
I read this book in the weeks prior to Rememberance Day, and found that it increased my appreciation and respect for the war veterans that still march proudly in the parades, and stand for long stretches with their boxes of poppies. I am not in general a fan of war movies or stories, but this book is a far cry from the hollywood version of war, nor is it a dry history of war and battle tactics. Although the author does not hesitate to describe the horrors of war, such as "narrow lanes choked with dead bodies," he also describes the routine training and drills that often went on for years before Canadian soldiers saw actual combat.
It is however Colombo's focus on the lives of Russ and Frank, one Canadian and one German, from childhood to their senior years, that makes the story come to life. The many personal anecdotes and stories bring out the strengths and weaknesses of these 2 men. They are ordinary people, joining a war where they were "trained and told to kill, although society teaches this is the most abhorrent behaviour imaginable." Off the battle field, these men obviously have the capacity and willingness to become friends, even though they could have killed one another in combat only days earlier. How does any soldier come to terms with these opposing motivations and actions?
Colombo's clear, simple writing style make this book accessible to many different readers. I will definitely encourage my teenage son to read it, and will also give a copy to my father-in-law, a war veteran himself. I am certain they will both become engrossed in this true story.
This work by Steve Colombo brings to life the drama and emotions of what it was like for men to go through the Great Depression followed by World War II and then come home to try and lead a normal life. By examining this historical period through the eyes of two men, from either side of the conflict, makes it an even more compelling story. It lends a perspective that is not normally provided in accounts of this very important period of time that is still affecting our lives. It makes one realize that there were good human beings on both sides of the conflict, and that they were caught up in the savagery of war that took them to dark places they would never have gone under normal circumstances. I lived through the same story Steve did and always wondered why my Dad became silent when asked about his life during those very trying times. Steve's writing brought back those memories of my Dad and the valor of those men. This book is another reminder as to why they are considered the greatest generation.
Stephen has delved into the inner working of children whose fathers fought in wars. It is a story that is personal, touching and illuminating.
Stephen's sympathy with his father is remarkable given how, as a father, he was not able to give his children the emotional support that is so much needed. I saw reflected in his story my own experiences with a father who was a war veteran and hero to many he returned to, but for some inexplicable reason was not able to connect, particularly to a son.
With Stephen's book in hand, I wept, I smiled, I explored. I shall pass on my copy of this book to another child of a war vet, this time from a ethnic german family. I think he will find it equally comforting.
Although, I generally don't read "war" books, a friend recommended 'A Letter From Frank' so I thought I'd try it. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised that I liked it as much as I did. The story of the letter and how the author found the Frank is remarkable in itself. I also really enjoyed the way the author followed the lives of Russ and Frank showing the commonalities (in some cases) and the differences in the lives of two young men leading up to and during the Second World War. What surprised me the most though, is that I actually enjoyed reading the reports of the battles the Canadian troops were in. It reminded me of the terrible conditions these men endured and made me appreciate their sacrifices even more.
Instead of looking a WW 2 from a single countries perspective, this book joins the German and Canadian views. I think the German, Frank, may give a more accurate account since he was interviewed by Stephen Colombo. Russ Colombo was a fine soldier but he is long dead and was not interviewed. The Canadian army before the war consisted of 3000 men and no tanks. They had to scrounge up two WW I tanks in order to train the new recruits. Canadian bureaucracy does not come off well. They even gave their soldiers the option of staying home rather than going overseas. There is criticism of the Sherman tank and praise for the German Panther. It does not mention the inferior radios, poor reliability, cramped positions in the Panther, and the deterioration in the steel alloys used as armor in the later years of the war. German artillery deservedly comes off very well. My opinion of Czechs is shaken by their treatment of the Germans in their country due to the Versailles Treaty.