(Review) Letters to Doberitz by Derek R. Payne

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Publisher and Publication Date: Austin Macauley Publishers LTD. October 31, 2018.
Genre: Nonfiction. Memoir. World War I.
Pages: 224.
Source: I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Excellent.
Audience: For readers of World War I and military books.

19 black and white illustrations

Amazon
The Kindle price is $4.49

A FIRST novel from Derek R. Payne

 

Summary:
Letters to Doberitz is a memoir of Derek R. Payne’s family during Word War I. This is the story of his grandparents and great-grandparents. The story represents life in England before World War I and during the war years; it also shows the remarkable story of men who fought in the battles of World War I. Another key feature is the after effects of combat on a battle weary man. The family holds a large selection of black and white photographs from this period. His grandfather learned a new art by painting over the black and white photographs adding watercolours. Payne considers the photographs a “window” to their lives.

My Thoughts:
Letters to Doberitz is an excellent resource for any reader interested in World War I. In the first few pages, I was shown how people felt about the looming war in early 1914. It also shows the work environment, dating, and parent to children relationships. I especially loved a panoramic view shown through strong description of street life. In addition, a speech given to the people in the Bristol town square about the war.
William Payne joined the war early. He was a young man with a driven focus. If the book had only been about him I’d have enjoyed reading it, but the book includes his father’s story.
Additional reasons why I loved this book:
•It was interesting to read about the enlistment process and combat training.
•The first battle, The Battle of Mons. The thoughts of the soldiers who were still in training, and how they heard the battle had not gone well. This point adds to the tension.
•The departure for Belgium, and the first sighting of this country. Through Will’s eyes I understood better about how all the combat ready men must have felt. He’d lived in the same place all his life and he’d embarked on a first trip.
•The trench line. This part of the book, the battle in the trenches, is a crisis point in the book. The nighttime thoughts and perspective. The waiting of when the battle will begin. The anticipation and tension of when the shells hit and are brought in to closer range. The shock wave of the blasts from the guns. The chaos of bombardment. All the sights, sounds, and feelings of being there are brought to life. I feel this is the strongest feature of the book.
•I was most interested to read about how men were treated for “shell shock.” This is what PTSD was called in World War I.

Shellshock2

Photograph is from Wikipedia and not from the book. Photograph taken from a field station at Ypres, Belgium, 1917. 

 

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(Review) High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin

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Publisher and Publication Date: Bethany House. June 6, 2017.
Genre: Christian fiction, World War I.
Pages: 393.
Source: Complimentary paperback copy from Bethany House. I was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon

Summary:
Evelyn Marche is a nurse in German-occupied Brussels, Belgium during World War I. She lives with her mother. She has a brother and sister who are separated from the family because of the war. Evelyn, known as Eve in the story, works evenings in a café. She is also an agent for the resistance against Germany. When the story begins, her mission is to meet an agent who is bringing an important message. She is shocked to recognize the agent. She risks her life to secure the freedom of this important person.

My Thoughts:
I loved this story.
I was immediately captured by the character Eve. She is so many things that are important in a good character. For example, I understand her life through her thoughts and conversations. She is a person of principle and intellect. She is a dimensional character. I see her strengths and weaknesses. She is a character that I admire. She has painful memories and she has memories of joy. She carried the weight of the story through her resilience and strength. She is a believable character. She is not a perfect heroine and this is important.
I did not know until reading this story there was a resistance network during World War I. I am familiar with the resistance during World War II but not World War I. I felt Belgium was an interesting spot for the setting. Belgium was over-run  and damaged during World War II by the war. I did not know until reading this book its history during World War I.
I enjoyed reading the “Author’s Note” at the end of the book. The history of the spy network is explained, the role of female spies, and the destruction of Belgium during this period.
A strong element of the story is there is a double agent. I did not know who the person was until it is revealed in the story.
Another strong element is the love story. The first thing I think about in the love story is the characters commitment. I could name other factors, but these two people have persevered despite the war.
Lastly, the story shows how civilians felt about and treated those who collaborated or did business with the Boche-Germans.