Thursday, September 2, 2010

Book Review: And No Birds Sang

Book Review: And No Birds Sang by Farley Mowat

During my summer my father-in-law let me borrow some Farley Mowat books. And No Birds Sang immediately got my attention. First, because it was a book on war by a well known author, secondly because when you think of Farley Mowat you don't think war - you think "Never Cry Wolf" and environmentalist, and thirdly because when I flipped to the first page I found myself immediately engrossed after only reading one paragraph. Ever have that happen to you, you pick up a book and after reading a few sentences you just know that you must read it?

It is rare to have a book on a man's war experience make you laugh alot but this one of the surprises I had in store. Farley Mowat is in my opinion one of the greatest Canadian authors. This book chronicles him desperately trying to get into the Canadian forces and impatiently awaiting his time to get to war. He seems to capture the optimism and excitement about engaging the enemy that was present during that time. I laughed out loud at some of his stories of his hijinks in the infantry (how he was not court martialed is beyond me) and thought that perhaps the story would remain a comedy throughout. But soon after he describes the invasion of Europe the book begins to get more serious, more dark. For a long time he manages to outwit his fear but when it finally catches up to him, the results are not funny at all. They are downright terrifying.

Subtly and indirectly, Mowat invites you to think about war. As you follow his change of mood, you find your own mood about it changing and being challenged as well. If I was to try and describe this book in one sentence I'd say something like "a humorous and coarse piece of poetry about one naturalist's coming of age against a backdrop of brutal war." Somehow, physically and psychologically, Mowat survived the war and lived to tell about it. His courage to tell his story is just as admirable as was his courage to fight in it. I rate this book 4.5 ninja stars out of 5 and I'd read it again.

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