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16 February 2015

Not in the Hand of Boys
Julian Moss
Camilian Publishing
Publication Date
October 2014


With dreams of becoming a success in the financial world, twenty-year-old Dai Bowen leaves his small Welsh village to seek a career as a banker in London. When World War I breaks out and the banks are forced to close, Dai enlists in the army, hoping that the war will be over before he is ever called on to fight. However, Dai soon finds himself marching to the treacherous front lines in Belgium and battling the Germans in brutal trench warfare. Back in Wales, Dai’s girlfriend, Gwyneth Hughes, envisions a future of marriage and children when he returns. When calamity forces her to flee the village, she embarks on a rocky journey that leads her to England, where she finds work in a munitions factory. Although the couple exchange letters during their separation, both Dai and Gwyneth harbor deep secrets as they try to navigate the harsh uncertainties of wartime. Woven into the story is the life of twenty-five-year-old Adolf Hitler. Serving as a dispatch runner in the Bavarian Army, the novel explores the future dictator’s budding political ideology, murky service record, and uneasy relationship with his fellow soldiers. What Passing Bells details the horrors of trench warfare and hand-to-hand combat, illustrating how the ripples of conflict touch the lives of families, lovers, and brothers-in-arms. It is a story of innocence lost but insight gained, leaving readers to question the role fate plays in shaping our lives, and to rethink how we define our enemies and ourselves.

My Review 

You will definitely need to take your time with this book, but it will be so worth it. 
Let me tell you from the beginning that I am not usually one to read books on wars, neither fictional nor factual. Maybe because I'm a pacifist at heart? And I was brought up in (East)Germany where they usually don't really talk about the World Wars. Maybe because we feel that often, as a nation, we get reduced to stories about the world wars only.

 Saying all this, I was content to give this book a go. And right from the first page, I was hooked and wanted to know what's happening with Dai and all his friends and foes. Dai is a very likeable young man.Big dreams as a young man, he leaves his small home village for the big city. The reality of the real world very soon bites him (and who can't relate to that!). And that was before the World War I even started. I just loved his girl Gwyneth, she was probably my favourite character. A strong women in many senses. She was not on the front line, but had to fight her own battles. 

One thing I really liked is that I learned a lot through this book. Not the obvious facts about WW1. But, for example, I didn't know that young and fit men had white feathers thrown at them in the street if they hadn't enlisted yet to fight for their country (the signs of a coward). And than there is the trench warfare. I know that there are many books on the trenches and what's happened. I felt the author manages to give us a true account without even using the strongest descriptive words and endless adjectives. Just the normal days for the boys in the trenches are described, and that is enough for us, he doesn't need overtly emotional language. The whole senselessness of this war and the killings becomes clear during the Christmas truce, and the following day the soldiers who had shaken hands and exchanged food were ordered to kill each other. The common man does not want to kill his fellow man,but is forced to act. And this applies on both sides. 

Highly recommended if you don't usually read books on the subject. I have given the book to my 16 year old daughter to read and she finds it very interesting and has talked about it in school history lessons. 

Any criticism? This is nit-picking: as a German speaker, I think some of the German translations could have been better - there are some words which have a double meaning and the wrong translated word was used. I said it - it is nit-picking and would only be noticed by a German-speaker. 

I have received this book from the author in return for an honest review.