Review by The Mole
Translated by Sarah Ardizzone
Introduced by Michael Morpurgo
Illustrated by Barroux
Barroux found the diary of a French soldier from the first world war in a rubbish tip in Paris. The diary tells us little of the man but much about his experiences during August and September of 1914 - the start of the first world war in France.
Because the audience it is written for is himself alone (or maybe his family if it found it's way home) it is honest and forthright, containing his emotions of the moment. He started out patriotic with high morale but quickly misses his family and starts to encounter the confusion of war as people are moved, pushed, advanced and retreated around the country. He shares with us the full horrors that we normally hear of third hand through fiction and documentaries. He becomes injured and has to seek medical help and feels guilty about not being with his comrades to help protect his family who are in Paris while the German army are closing in.
Translation is always a little awkward in so far as you will inevitably end up paraphrasing something but here the translator has managed to stay very close to the original. Those with a smattering of French can attempt to read the few reproduced pages and appreciate the quality of the translation which greatly enhances this book.
The diary stops on 12th September 1914 while he is out of the line of fire and recovering in hospital. What became of the soldier? We will never know but we do get an insight into what life was like for an infantryman at that time.
Aimed at the 11+ reader then the pictures - making this a "graphic novel" - add appeal but this is non-fiction so that title is errant and it's appeal is to a far wider audience including adults of all ages.
Publisher - Phoenix Yard Books
Genre - 11+, Non-fiction, History
Buy Line of Fire: Diary of an Unknown Soldier August - September 1914