Two World War I classics: The story of a British soldier enduring the battle in France and a novella starring a man who takes drastic steps to escape the Great War.
The million British dead have left no books behind. What they felt as they died hour by hour in the mud, or were choked horribly with gas, or relinquished their reluctant lives on stretchers, no witness tells. But here is a book that almost tells it. . . . Mr. Gristwood has had the relentless simplicity to recall things as they were; he was as nearly dead as he could be without dying, and he has smelt the stench of his own corruption. This is the story of millions of men—of millions.” —H. G. Wells
In The Somme and its companion The Coward, first published in 1927, the heroics of war and noble self-sacrifice are completely absent, replaced by the gritty realism of life for the ordinary soldier in World War I and an unflinching portrayal of the horrors of war. Written under the guidance of master storyteller H. G. Wells, they are classics of the genre.
Based on A. D. Gristwood’s own wartime experiences, The Somme revolves around a futile attack during the 1916 Somme campaign. On the battlefront, Tom Everitt is wounded and must be moved back through a series of dressing stations to the General Hospital at Rouen. Few other accounts of the war give such an accurate picture of trench life, and The Spectator praised Gristwood’s “very effective writing,” calling The Somme “a book which anyone who was not in the War should read.”
The Coward concerns a man who shoots himself in the hand to escape the chaos during the March 1918 retreat—an offense punishable by death—and is haunted by fear of discovery and self-loathing. Together, these works offer a vivid, immersive view of the First World War and the suffering it inflicted on the men who fought it.