Tag Archives: world war l

Treaty of Versailles

My daughter recently did a school project on The Treaty of Versailles and I helped her source some of the books from the local library. She had many more sources from her school library and, of course, her research was much more intense than mine but a strange thing happened – I learned a few things. I won’t even try to claim that I read all these books cover to cover but, by golly, I did absorb a few details. I now have a better understanding of the players involved and a pretty clear understanding why the treaty might have failed. In fact, if you ask some people when World War 2 started  they may reply “June 28, 1919” — the day that the Treaty of Versailles was signed.paris 1919
These are some of the books from our local library;
Paris 1919 Six Months that Changed the World by MacMillan, Margaret, 2002, Random House

The Guardians –  The League of nations and the Crisis of Empire by Susan Pederson, 2015 ,Oxford University Press

With Our Back Against the Wall –  Victory and Defeat in 1918 by Stevenson, D., 2011, Belknap Press of Harvard

A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin 1989. Holt

A Shattered Peace by David Andelman 2014, Wiley, John Wiley and sons

The Long Shadow by David Reynolds, 2014, W. W. Norton and co.

The Lights That Failed by Zara Steiner, 2005, Oxford University Press

The Deluge by Adam Tooze, 2014, Viking

The Fall of The Ottomans by Rogan, Eugene, 2015, Perseus Books

The Wilsonian Moment by Erez Manela, 2007, Oxford University press

Laurence In Arabia by Anderson, Scott, 2013, Signal

These books have lots of information on the Paris Peace Treaties and The Treaty of Versailles in Particular. I am not an academic yet I found some information that fascinated me. Here are a few points that fascinated me.

  • The Germans agreed to surrender based on Wilson’s “fourteen points for peace” yet these were pretty much ignored once the negotiations began
  • In fact The United States Of America opted out of “The League of Nations”
  • It seemed each country had their own agenda.
  • France suffered the most casualties and damage during the war and they demanded reparations from Germany resulting in a hungry and impoverished and unhappy Germany. This led to the groundwork for an upstart named Adolph Hitler and his Fascists to improve the conditions in Germany and become a hero.
  • They league of nation had no muscle and the treaty was broken at various times by various countries with few consequences
  • Boundaries all through Europe were redrawn willy nilly, especially in the Middle East
  • Eventually several nations withdrew from the league of nations.

I usually like to write about fiction. novels but this subject peaked my interest so I thought I would include this biblioghraphy on my blog. Of course, I have only touched the surface on this topic.




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Scottish Islands during World War 1

IolaireI am drawn to novels set on Scottish Islands; for years now I have tried  to get my hands on any and every novel featuring a Scottish Island setting.  Skye, Orkney, Lewis and Harris, Iona, Shetland, Barra,—well it could be a long list because there are over 90 inhabited Islands (although in some  cases the population may consist of a single caretaker or family). Of course two famous writers (Ann Cleeves and Peter May) have made it easier, each by setting a series on a Scottish Island.   I have reviewed many of these novels in greater detail in past blogs (and explained some of the reasons why they attracted me).

And….I have been presenting an overview of some  impressive World War 1 novels in my past few blogs and now I am going to continue with the war theme and add the Scottish Island theme. I hope my next few blogs might offer some choices and possibilities to readers who enjoy this type of fiction.

I have stated that my main interest is fiction–well this blog is about fiction—BUT right now, in this posting, I am going to indulge in some NON-fiction. I think the narrative I am about to present will give the reader some perspective with respect to the Islanders’ involvement in World War 1.  So I will break with form to tell…..

The Heartbreaking and True story of the HMY Iolaire,

The young men of Isle of Lewis had a long record of coming to the aid of king and country, and true to form, during World War One, Lewis contributed 6,200 servicemen to the cause, and that  from a population of 30,000.  When the  guns  went  quiet after the armistice had been signed….1,000 Lewis men had succumbed to the war. One thousand young men would never come home.  Six weeks after the armistice, Lewis servicemen (survivors of a hell on earth), were still being demobbed and preparing to return home to their Island . On New Years Eve, 9:30 p.m., the HMY Iolaire (Gaelic for Eagle) left the Kyle of Lochalsh and  set sail for Stornaway Harbour on the Isle of Lewis. These men had survived the obscenities of war….and they were going home. Families on Lewis were preparing to have their sons/fathers/brothers/cousins/husbands/sweethearts home for the new year. The ship had a maximum capacity for 100 persons yet 280 men were onboard that night. Just outside Stornaway harbour, the Iolaire hit a rocky outcropping known as “The Beasts of Holm” These rocks had long been known as challenging to navigate (even in daylight with a familiar crew….and even today). On January 1, 1919 the Iolaire sank. Many men drowned immediately with their heavy boots and full uniforms weighing them down and others were able to hang on to the masts for hours. Of the seven men gripping the masts, only one was able to hold on until rescued. And there was a hero……  A man named John F. McLeod managed to swim ashore with a rope. He secured it to a rock on the shore and it is believed that 40 men were saved by using this life line.  In the final count 205 men of the 280 onboard perished in the sea that night…….174 Lewis men,  7 Harris men and the rest were crew.  The entire Island was in mourning.

The first time I heard this story it was like a kick in the gut. They survived the war, only to die within sight of their home.

My next blog will feature Scottish Island fiction set during the First World War. I hope my readers can understand why I chose to  reveal this true story before I began the next stage of my WWI fiction blogs.








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World War 1 and Mystery Fiction Series

maisie I love mystery series – I suppose that started with Nancy Drew – but I still watch closely to see when my favourite authors are ready to release the next entry in their series. I will stalk them on the internet and the new release section of my library hoping to get near the beginning of the queue. I like to see the characters grow and change and develop and sometimes they even encounter set-backs. (It has just crossed my mind that Nancy Drew is not at all like that – she was always 18, dating Ned Nickerson and palling around with Bess.)

The first series is MAISIE DOBBS …By Jacqueline Winspear (Soho Press, 2003) Maisie is a woman who is easy to admire. She spent many of her early years “in service ” until one day she was caught by the lady of the house using the library.  This transgression might have resulted in immediate dismissal but instead the lady took an interest in Maisie and her informal education had begun.  She went on to a more formal education but at the onset of WW 1 she trained to be a nurse (lying about her age). She saw many years service at the front lines in France. The novel actually begins in 1929 as Maisie is opening her office as an “Inquiry agent and Psychologist” but her cases constantly bring her back to the war and her earlier years are usually recounted as a flashback memory.. She deals with shell-shocked soldiers and many injustices that still stem from the war. She also manages to straddle the world of the upper and lower classes . Personal grief, depression, anxiety are all examined in the books. The Maisie Dobbs books now number 10—-in order MAISIE DOBBS 2003, BIRDS OF A FEATHER 2004, PARDONABLE LIES 2005, MESSENGER OF TRUTH  2006, AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE 2008, AMONG THE MAD 2009, THE MAPPING OF LOVE AND DEATH 2010, A LESSON IN SECRETS 2011, ELEGY FOR EDDIE 2012, LEAVING EVERYTHING MOST LOVED 2013. I highly recommend these novels. In a side note—-Jacqueline Winspear did not write a Maisie Dobbs book this year but instead she came out with s stand-alone (also about WW1) but I didn’t like it. Unfortunately I can not tell you why because it would be a spoiler. But rest assured Jacqueline Winspear fans, it was well reviewed by the REAL press. It is called THE CARE AND MANAGEMENT OF LIES 2014.

Another series I like also features a WWI . nurse.  The books are by Charles Todd and feature a British nurse–Sister Bess Crawford. The first novel begins on Tuesday 21 November, 1916, 8:00 am aboard the HMHS (His Majesty’s Hospital Ship) Britannic. Britannic had been requisitioned as a hospital ship with the onset of WWI and was travelling to collect wounded from Greek Macedonia, Palestine, and Mesopotania. The time and the date are important because 12 minutes later, at 8:12 a.m. an explosion rocked the ship. (Probably a mine)  Fifty five minutes later the Britanic was lost beneath the sea. The Britannic had been the sister ship of the Titanic and many improvements had been undertaken so this ship could avoid the fate of the Titanic. Unfortunately simply human error was probably responsible for the quick sinking; the nurses had opened all the portholes on the fresh and breezy day to air out the chambers. There were adequate lifeboats (unlike the Titanic) and the final death toll was 30 lives. Even these  lives could have been spared but several lifeboats left before the captain called”abandon ship” and they were swept into the propellor. This is a fairly accurate account of the sinking of the Britannic – I know , I researched it–(Okay, okay I googled it)   And then the fiction…..Our heroine Bess is sent home to recover from a broken arm and she uncovers a mystery. I almost did not read this novel because of the author. Charles Todd—-I just had to wonder what a man could know about the emotions of a frontline nurse. Well guess what…Charles Todd is the pen name of a MOTHER and SON writing team.The first book is A DUTY TO THE DEAD 2009, AN IMPARTIAL WITNESS 2010, A BITTER TRUTH 2011, AN UNMARKED GRAVE 2012, A QUESTION OF HONOUR 2013, AN UNWILLING ACCOMPLICE 2014. One of the books deals pretty heavily with that other enemy–the spanish flu.

Charles Todd also writes a series featuring WWl veteran Inspector Ian Rutlege. I have read some good reviews BUT I have not read themduty to the

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Filed under book reviews, historical fiction, Historical mysteries, Mysterious Ladies, mystery fiction, world war 1

World War 1 and Fiction Novels

This year is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WW 1 and in recognition of that fact I would like to present some of my choices for WW 1 fiction novels. These novels are set during, or in the aftermath of this war. Many would argue that nonfiction would be a greater use of one’s time and provide a more accurate picture of historical events. I can’t argue with that logic, I can only say that I prefer fiction. I like to get to know a character. enter his or her thoughts, follow them through their story, and in the case of a series, I can follow them through many adventures.  I have reviewed many of these books in earlier blogs and I now intend to do more of an overview. I will be including books that are set in the aftermath of the war because the repercussions of WW1 were enormous. In Great Britain a good portion of a generation of young men were wiped out, and in consequence, women found themselves with more options in the workplace. Until then women had few choices; they were wives(and mothers), they were “in service”  or they joined a religious order (with exceptions, of course) But so many of the men were gone, and women had gained experience in the workforce. There was change. It might also be said that WW 1 Caused a blurring of class lines. More change!

My next blog will feature some of my favourite authors and their WW 1 series.

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A Duty to the Death….by Charles Todd (2009)

Historical Fiction, Mystery Fiction;

This novel begins on Tuesday 21 November, 1916. 8:00a.m. aboard the HMHS (His Majesty’s  Hospital Ship ) Britannic.    Britannic had been requisitioned as a hospital ship with the onset of WWI and was travelling to collect wounded from Greek Macedonia, Palestine,  and Mesopotamia. The time and the date are important because 12 minutes later, at 8:12 a.m, an explosion rocked the ship. (Probably a mine) Fifty-five minutes later the HMHS Britannic was lost beneath the sea. The Britannic had been a sister ship of the Titanic and many improvements had been undertaken so this ship could avoid the fate of the Titanic. Unfortunately, simple human error was probably responsible for its quick sinking ; the nurses had opened all the portholes on that fresh and breezy day to air out the chambers.There were adequate lifeboats (unlike the Titanic)  and the final death toll was 30 men . This much is a fairly accurate account of the sinking of the Britannic .

And now to the story–or shall we say fiction. Bess Crawford is a nurse and a survivor of the Britannic. She is sent home to England to recover from a nasty broken arm and she has another mission that she is determined to complete during her leave. A soldier she had nursed  made her promise to fulfill his dying wish.  He wanted her to visit his family in Kent and give them a fairly simple-sounding message.  She had agreed to do this but  put it off more than once.  Her near-death experience makes her realize that her life could end at any time and she better fulfill that promise.

The family is visited and the message is delivered.  The family  appear indifferent.

During her short visit to this small village, Bess is called upon for her nursing skills.  The local doctor asks for her help with a shell-shocked patient and then she must nurse  a pneumonia patient, the brother of the soldier responsible for her visit.  She begins to put pieces together regarding the message and the family but much of it doesn’t make sense. eventually she must leave the village but this mystery won’t leave her alone.

This is another story about the devastation of war–even far from the battlefields. 

A very worthwhile read.

Interesting tidbit—Charles Todd is actually a mother-son writing team.

Harper-Collins Publishers (2009)

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The Crimson Rooms…….by Katharine McMahon (2009)

Historical Fiction, Mystery

This is a novel that expertly illustrates that a war isn’t over when a cease-fire is declared.  It takes place in London in 1924 and it is shockingly clear that  almost everyone is suffering from the effects of the war.Evelyn Gifford is a 30ish young lady trying to become a lawyer at a time when women just weren’t lawyers. She lives in a London house with her mother, Grandmother, Aunt, and two elderly maids. The household is  crippled with grief over the death of Evelyn’s brother James, who died during the war–his hat sits on a hook in the front hall exactly as he left it on his last leave. Suddenly the household is thrown into turmoil when a young lady shows up at the front door, claiming the boy who accompanies her is James’ son.

At her work Evelyn is investigating a case of an ex-soldier accused of killing his wife of three weeks. Everyone at the firm believes in his innocence but he shows a confusing lack of interest in defending himself of this capital crime. Evelyn’s life is further complicated by a handsome attorney offering her support and assistance. Evelyn is also trying to help a young mother regain custody of her children, a task that increases in urgency when she  learns about the so-called home children–orphans and non-orphans sent to Canada and Australia to be, in many cases, indentured servants. And through it all she faces the old-boys-club  of the British justice system.

Evelyn doggedly follows the clues in the murder mystery and faithfully works on the behalf of the young mother.  This is a complex and satisfying mystery although the content can be grim.  The reality of the shell-shocked soldier is just as valid today as we learn more about post traumatic stress disorder. (or battle fatigue  as they called it in WW2)

A  complex, interesting and worthwhile novel.

Orion Publishing Group (2009)

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