Thursday, January 17, 2019

Book Review: The Verdun Affair

The Verdun AffairThe Verdun Affair by Nick Dybek

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In today's historical fiction market if you are choosing to write about WWI or WWII you really need to feel confident that you have a special story to tell; otherwise you are just contributing to the over saturation of the market.
Unfortunately The Verdun Affair didn't hold anything truly new or interesting to me. A few side stories that were very good; but then we'd get back to the main story and it was dull and drab again.

The way Nick Dybek has written The Verdun Affair is to jump back and forth between people's memories and their current day. However it's not always clear which timeline you're in or even which character POV is you are in. This created confusion for me at numerous points. At first I would read back to try and figure out what I missed; but after it happening a few times I'd just plow forward with the narrative and hope I figured it out before the POV or timeline changed again. There was just too much crisscrossing to really keep a good handle for me.

Side Stories
The best part of Verdun Affair was the little side stories that were told. They felt very truthful (as they likely are) and genuine. Additionally they were personal in a way that the rest of the novel did not match up with. My favourite side story of them all discussed a man in the trenches whom the enemy has just bombed, and if you were lucky enough to survive the bombing then you saw the enemy bearing down on you with guns a blazing. And of course you saw this through the smoke of the battlefield created by the bombs. Then suddenly the enemy falls dead. As if by magic. What actually happened is a high concentration of CO2 flowed up in a pocket and killed the front-line men racing towards the trenches.
I can't even imagine what you would think in those moments were you in the trench; but obviously many would go to religion or other spiritual thoughts as their life was saved, seemingly, by an invisible force.

Now that I've given you the gist of the best side story (above) you can confidently (in my opinion) leave this book to the side and move towards some of the better war literature out there. I would recommend one that doesn't chase amnesiacs around Europe or encourage delusional thoughts about a husband whilst sleeping with another man...
Or even better, one that is based on a true story with far more meaningful relationships and characters than described here.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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1 comment:

Leonore Winterer said...

Eh, yeah, I agree - if there is a lot of literature about a subject, you usually need at least one thing that makes you stand out to be worth reading. What goes for fairy tale retellings and dystopia (what's the plural of dystopia?) is even more true for war literature, for the simple reason that there are SO many incredible true stories already, it's really hard to justify telling a fabricated one (although surely there are exceptions to every rule).