Sweet Wine of Youth, Book 1
From the publisher:
Fiery Deirdre Brannigan had opinions on everything. She certainly hated the very idea of war in 1914. Childhood pals Jack Oakley and Will Parsons thought it a grand adventure with their friends. But the crushing weight of her guilty conscience pushes Deirdre to leave Ireland and land directly in the fray.
Meanwhile the five friends from Newfoundland blithely enlist. After all, the war couldn’t possibly last very long…They learn quickly how wrong they are and each is torn apart by the carnage in France.
What began with enthusiastic dreams of parades and dances with handsome young soldiers turned into long days and nights in the hospital wards desperately trying to save lives. And for the good and decent young men in fine new uniforms aching to prove themselves worthy on the field of battle, the horrors of war quickly descended. But it is also the war which brings them together.
Deirdre’s path crosses with Jack and Will when they’re brought to her field hospital the first day of the slaughter on the Somme. Their lives part, their journeys forward fraught with physical and emotional scars tossing them through unexpected and often painful twists and turns. But somehow, a sliver of hope, love and redemption emerges. And their paths cross again in St. John’s. When the guns finally fall silent, can Deirdre overcome her secret demons through a new life with battered Jack? Can shell-shocked Will confront his despotic father’s expectations to become the man his young family deserves?
One of the strongest antiwar books I have read. The author indicates that it was planned as the first of three books dealing with people caught up in the horrific battles of World War I. His incredible research is one of the many factors contributing to the draw of the situations confronting five characters that take part in the war and in so doing change their lives and outlooks forever.
The first part of the book deals with the entrance of the world into a war that all thought would not last very long and drawing into it characters that were residents of Newfoundland in Canada. Prior to their enlistment an Irish lay nurse (trainee) volunteered to work at a hospital directly serving the British front. Deirdre Brannigan starting her career at a hospital in Ireland wanted to do more in her chosen profession left to aid the wounded of the war.
The battles that the soldiers took part in were the landing at Gallipoli fighting the Turkish army with the accompaniment of mass slaughter and then against German troops at the Somme in France, with much more of the same death and horror. Deirdre, for her part, got her baptism of fire as men and sometimes parts of men that were victims of artillery and machine guns were brought into her hospital for treatment. She became emotionally traumatized at the sight of the human carnage that flowed through her workstation but was forced to carry on driven by the circumstances she found herself in. The men developed friendships that only the circumstances they found themselves in can cause to develop. One of them, seriously wounded met Deirdre and the two found love together.
At the war’s end all returning to home find a truism about war and combat. After battle, killing and fighting no one is ever the same again and it is almost impossible to return to the life lived prior to the war. It is almost the same as if many returning soldiers still have major wounds. Mr. Walker opens a description of men being “shell shocked” by exposure to constant killing and battle.
The attitude at the time was that officers that suffered from this disease were telling the truth and were allowed to rest while enlisted men were simply lying to get out of combat and punished. It wasn’t until later years that the condition was recognized as a genuine condition exacerbated by combat and treated as best as possible as PTSD (post traumatic stress disease).
It is sure that this novel will stay with any reader and is again, one that cannot be put down until finished.
8/2021 Paul Lane
NONE OF US THE SAME by Jeffrey K. Walker. Ballybur Publishing (May 16, 2017). ISBN: 978-1947108004. 285 pages.