Review: Souvenirs ~ Keith C. Chase

SouvenirsIn the cold October of 1944, as the American Army struggles to capture the German City of Aachen, Sergeant Richard Grant struggles desperately to keep his six remaining squad members alive.

Every moment of their lives contains a new vision of death and the horror of war. Other squads begin to believe that Grant’s men’s obsession with removing ‘souvenirs’ from dead and captured German soldiers explains their daily survival.

Inexplicably lucky, Grant and his men however, believe the act of collecting a souvenir bestows them another day of survival in battle.

The men suddenly realize their luck may well be borrowed time, payable in full. Their sanity is stretched to the breaking point as their sense of protection withers

5 Thumbs-Up

This is a debut novel for this Author, although it was originally self-published in the 90’s and only recently came to the eBook arena.

World War 2 is contains a vast well of inspiration and events for Authors to pull from, ranging from the Home front in the countries affected to the ‘boots on ground’ troops on the frontline.  In this novel the Author chose to depict the day-to-day struggles of the ground troops, the ways in which they endured the arduous tasks they were confronted with and also the schemes they devised to keep themselves ‘sane’

In developing the characters in his novel, the Author has done an outstanding and meticulous job of humanizing them and making the reader not only care about their well-being but, from the comfort of home, cheer them on in their efforts to return to that home safely. As in all wars that are fought mainly by young men, this novel covers that perfectly as even the ‘old soldiers’ in the unit we follow are young in age.  Through skilful writing the Author shows us the inner feelings of these young men in awful situations; their worries, concerns for one another, concealed cowardice and overt bravado.  Even in the heat of battle, these soldiers are imbued with a sense of compassion and empathy for the enemy.  The Authors own experience as a Marine Corps veteran shines through in his depiction of these tired and weary men.  The reader is made to care so much for the characters in this book that, when one of them dies, as is the nature of war, the reader experiences a sense of loss and can actually grieve whilst continuing on with the rest of the unit.

It is apparent when reading this novel that it has to be, in my opinion, one of the most accurate and heavily researched World War 2, European Theatre of War books I have  read since ‘The Thin Red Line’ by James Jones.  Although taking place in a different theatre of war, this book easily holds its own, and is a brilliant counterpoint to Norman Mailer’s ‘The Naked and The Dead’.  In both novels, the reader is drawn in by the characters, and the combat scenes make the pulse race.  This Author, unlike many who write in this genre, does not limit his storyline to combat scenes, he also effectively covers the downtime between conflicts, bringing the mind-numbing boredom and lows that the sudden stop of adrenaline causes, alive in all its misery.

I feel that this novel should be made compulsory reading for anyone who is in, or has ties to the modern-day Military community, as reading about how the troops would replace worn out clothing items and boots, essential for them to complete their mission, made me want to send out care packages in much the same way I did my Husband during his combat tours.  As a social commentary of war in that era, this novel serves to show those in the Military today that they really do have a good life, even when deployed.  The feelings this novel evokes in the reader is all down to the exemplary way in which it is written; it pulls no punches and makes no excuses for revealing this side of humanity in all its gritty and unsavoury detail.  The only criticism I have about this novel was its ending; the summation rather detracted from all the drama we had been subject to and actually served to take away some of the impact it made.  I would have preferred an abrupt ending, as war does tend to end abruptly in the field, and be left wanting more.  However, the fact that this novel evokes so many emotions and responses in the reader went some way to appeasing the disappointment I felt over the ending.

I would highly recommend this novel to all lovers of the historical novel genre, and also those who like to read non-fiction World War 2 books.  Because of the nature of the topic, I would probably recommend it to an age group of mature young adults upwards.  I am eagerly awaiting the next novel from this Author and, personally, feel that this one would make an excellent movie.

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