Monday, December 20, 2010
TRUCE, written by Jim Murphy. Scholastic, 2009. $24,99 ages 9 and up
at work on the men. The more friendly contact
they had with the enemy, the less anger they
felt toward them. After describing in detail
how neighborly the enemy across from him
was, German captain Rudolf Binding concluded
his diary entry with, 'Truly, there is no longer
any sense in this business.'"
And now, another story of the Christmas Day Truce...this one a nonfiction account of it from an author who was clearly moved and amazed by the events that transpired that famous day. When the men in the trenches called their own truce, they took no orders and paid no attention to the differences that were inherent in their being in that place and time. They believed in a Christmas miracle and they made it happen. For a brief and shining moment, they chose peace over all else.
Jim Murphy is a veteran in the field of nonfiction....he writes with clarity and care and does his research impeccably. While the text is direct and very clear, with accompanying archival photos to give readers perspective, the war itself was complex and often too horrifying to imagine. War has no place of honor for readers...it reflects the abysmal losses that resulted as modern weapons were used in old world combat. The story is compelling and kept me reading well into the night. I didn't want to put it down....war? injury? hatred? Doesn't sound like a book I would read relentlessly. But, I did.
When war broke out in summer 1914, the world swelled with patriotic pride...and all were convinced that it would be short-lived and the men would soon be home. At Christmas time, there were no signs that the end was in sight. In fact, the battles raged on and on, with no clear advantage to either side. Thousands died while thousands more dealt with illness, insects, rain and the knowledge that the war had no real purpose for the people fighting it.
On Christmas Eve the soldiers were falling prey to despair and the futility of the battles. They were trying, as much as they could, to create a more humane, and happier place to be. They sang songs, put up trees, and shared gifts. Everyone was quietly trying to enjoy this one special day! In the midst of their willingness to find good in an evil, ugly circumstance, the true spirit of Christmas shone forth.
You know the rest of the story....but, you will not be sorry to read about it in this masterful, and honorable book. I will leave the final say to Major Murdoch McKenzie Wood:
"I...came to the conclusion that I have held firmly ever since, that if we had been left to ourselves there would never have been another shot fired. For a fortnight that truce went on. We were on the most friendly terms, and it was only the fact that we were being controlled by others that made it necessary for us to start trying to shoot one another again."