What to Read After... Mr Gum 19/08/19
When the Guns Fall Silent
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Published to mark the centenary of the First World War this short novel from James Riordan tells the story of the Christmas day truce in No Man's Land, as a boy and his grandfather visit Flanders fields. Young Perry's impression of his grandfather as a heroic man who slayed the evil Germans is overturned with the realisation that these are memories of a time he would rather forget.
A chance encounter and a snapshot of a friendly football match bring up old memories. The grandfather recalls stories of his school master declaring the country at war, of playing football for Pompey when the team were called to duty, and of his own time in the trenches and that crisp Christmas day when the guns momentarily stopped.
Famous war poems are quoted to mark each chapter while letters from the trenches and details on the war effort back home are included as well, making this a neat and rounded text that would be useful for classrooms studying the war. Gory details of the horrific visions that crushed the spirits of the optimistic young soldiers put the terror of war into perspective but the story doesn't dwell on it. This is a suitably interesting introduction to the topic of the First World War that could satisfy more reluctant readers whilst encouraging keen historians to investigate further.