04 July 2014

The Somme Stations by Andrew Martin

At our last meeting we discussed The Somme Stations by Andrew Martin, we also welcomed our newest member to the group David (*waves enthusiastically).  As it was quite a sombre subject I decided not to do my usual "comedy" pun but fear not they will be back worse better than ever soon.

On the first day of the Somme enlisted railwayman Jim Stringer lies trapped in a shell hole, smoking cigarette after cigarette under the bullets and the blazing sun. He calculates his chances of survival - even before they departed for France, a member of Jim's unit had been found dead.

During the stand-off that follows, Jim and his comrades must operate by night the vitally important trains carrying munitions to the Front, through a ghostly landscape of shattered trees where high explosive and shrapnel shells rain down. Close co-operation and trust are vital. Yet proof piles up of an enemy within, and as a ferocious military policeman pursues his investigation into the original killing, the finger of accusation begins to point towards Jim himself . . .[From Amazon UK]

Although seventh in a series this book reads very well as a stand alone story however the group felt that reading previous titles in the series would have helped give some detail and depth to the main character.  This was a problem throughout in that although the majority of the group enjoyed the story we felt overall it was lacking in terms of depth of the characters and any great detail.  We also found the ending and tying up of the mystery to be very hurried.

Where this book really stands out is the description of the war, the battle, the railways in fact anywhere where the author has based the story on fact and used information from historical documents.  That's not to say it wasn't a good book it just needed a lot more detail and to be double the size it was for their to be any substance.

There is a fantastic podcast from the Faber and Faber (the publisher) website available here which includes an interview with the author, well worth a listen!

We also had a lengthy discussion about the War(s) including a discussion about how Germany marks the dates, thank you to Jan for pointing out this article from the BBC Website.  Of course if you want to know more Builth library has a great deal of resources both in print and online, check them out.

And so from a quite serious read to a very summery read, just in time for everyone's holibobs, next month we will be discussing A Cottage by the Sea by Carole Mathews...

Grace has been best friends with Ella and Flick forever. The late-night chats, shared heartaches and good times have created a bond that has stood the test of time.  When Ella invites them to stay for a week in her cottage in South Wales, Grace jumps at the chance to see her old friends. She also hopes that the change of scenery will help her reconnect with her distant husband.  Then Flick arrives; loveable, bubbly, incorrigible Flick, accompanied by the handsome and charming Noah. 
This is going to be one week which will change all their lives forever...

Now fair warning the library catalogue may be down for a bit as the library swaps over to a new computer system but there are plenty of copies available.  Best bet is to pop your head in and ask Sue/Jenny for some help tracking one down.

See you next time, 7pm Wednesday 6th August, Builth Wells Library, High St, Builth Wells :)

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