The last soldier who saw trench action in the Great War died in 2009. With his passing, all direct memory of the horror of that war ceased—memory became history. But Brian Kennedy argues that our collective need to grieve the horrors of the Great War still remains. In this wide-ranging book, he looks at a variety of fiction recently written about World War I, from Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse to Pat Barker’s Regeneration, from Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road to Timothy Findley’s The Wars, with many other books besides. Kennedy considers the traditional stories and tropes of the war, along with modern revisionings, the role of women in the war, and even Irish issues and the divisions within the British Empire. In the end, he argues persuasively that the cultural process of grieving concerns both the fear of forgetting and the need to build a narrative arc to contain events that shaped the past century and continue to shape the present.
Brian Kennedy is Montreal-born and raised, and now teaches British and postcolonial literature as well as writing courses at Pasadena City College, California. He has PhD in contemporary British literature, and his previous publications include essays on Virginia Woolf, Henry James and Graham Greene, an edited book on California issues and books and academic articles on hockey and Canadian culture. He has held a research fellowship at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax; given presentations at the Bakhtin Centre at the University of Sheffield, England; and lectured on literature at colleges in Mumbai, India. His work has been translated into Russian, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch.