The World War One battlefield that bulged out around Ypres, Belgium, was one of the most horrific killing grounds of the bloody, four-year conflict. Not familiar with the proper pronunciation of "Ypres," (EE-pruh), the Allied soldiers called the sector "Wipers." The Allies took thousands of casualties daily there from 1914 to 1918. Unable to break the German line, a plan was made to dig 5 miles of tunnels under No Man's Land, planting charges, and blowing up the enemy from below. This novel follows a British miner-turned-soldier and his unlikely companion: a mischievous, wisecracking soldier who was a magician in civilian life and joined the army under shady circumstances. Their struggle to survive is often tragic, yet often humorous. The story climaxes with the tunnel attack and the shocking aftermath. Ultimately, it shows war is not glorious; it ruins lives, even among those who survive.
Riveting Historical Fiction
By Michael H. - October 14, 2009
I just finished reading "Wipers" by Jeff Simmons and I highly recommend it to military history buffs or anyone looking for an action-packed novel. This book really puts you in the trenches for some of the most remarkable fighting of World War One - namely, the years-long battle for control of Ypres (a.k.a. "Wipers") in Belgium. You get a close-up look at what it must have been like to duck sniper fire, charge machine gun nests and - if you're unlucky - get pinned down in "No Man's Land" between your barbed wire barricades and the enemy's. Not to mention scrambling for your mask when the enemy's poison gas rolls in. And you get to see Richard Gardener and his fellow soldiers as people - their fears and resentments, their banter and pranks, and their hard-drinking camaraderie. There are plenty of heroics, but this is not a novel that sentimentalizes war. The author's descriptions of the muddy, rat-infested trenches, the brutal hand-to-hand fighting and the wounded and the dead make a... read more
A Little Flat
By gabrielsf21 - August 30, 2011
It's not as descriptive as I wanted it to be. It's not as interesting as I wanted it to be. The story is mostly uninteresting and you find yourself wanting the author to wrap it up and end it. The writing is flat and reads like a college kid's quality of narrative. The dialogue is dull and lacks any sort of depth. The descriptions of the trenches and no man's land and the landscape isn't there. There is no real illumination of what the trenches were really like. Overall disappointing. There has to be a better book of fiction for the Great War.
One of the finest works of fiction I have read!
By Philip Miller - January 3, 2010
I found this book to be one of the finest works of fiction I have recently read.
I base my opinion on the testimony of my late father-in-law, who served in the American Expeditionary Force in France, in a unit under the command of a captain named Harry S. Truman. Like many combat veterans, Dad never talked about his wartime experiences, that is, until I came along fifty years after World War I had ended. By that time, he was ready to open up, and he regaled me with hair-raising tales from his days in the trenches.
I mention this because in reading Simmons' book, I felt as if I were revisiting many of the same stories I had heard forty years ago.
I found the characters he created true and life-like, the plot well paced, and the dialogue crisp. (I'll go so far as to say that I cannot recall another first-book author whose dialogue was so life-like. Simmons seems to have a gift that experienced authors might envy.)
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