Reviews -- My Father's War

"Novelist West follows up his well-received My Mother's Music with this intimate memoir of his war-scarred father. West focuses on his own early teenage years in Britain during WWII, when his father's experience as a WWI machine-gunner loomed large in West's imagination. Sight impaired and sporadically employed because of a war wound, West's father seemed set apart from the family, with his ordeal in the trenches making him detached and giving him an almost bemused perspective on civilian life's vicissitudes. It is through those everyday details that West approaches this enigmatic figure, through a rambling accretion of mundane but vividly rendered scenes of his father smoking, eating breakfast, watching a soccer match or playing war with his son underneath the kitchen table. Eventually, West comes to appreciate his father's quiet heroism. Writing in an intensely personal...West teases out a tender, wryly funny portrait of his father and of the ravages and legacies of war."
-- Publishers Weekly
"West, a writer of finesse, amplitude, and wit, paid homage to his English village boyhood and his music teacher mother in his sparkling memoir, My Mother's Music (1996). He now remembers his father, whom he describes as "part ghost," an "impenitent original," and a "man of mystery." His enigmatic father joined the army at age 15, serving as a machine-gunner in the wretched trenches of World War I until a shell blinded him. He eventually regained sight in one eye but remained profoundly marked by his ordeal as yet another world war coalesced. West describes his father in startlingly tactile detail as he recounts the wrenching war stories his father told him, and marvels over how they played war, and rushed outside to watch the Nazi bombers. West's sensitivity to the vagaries of temperament is exquisite, his tenderness deeply moving. Writing of wars past in a time of war, West creates a portrait of his father that has all the richness of Rembrandt as it evokes the endless suffering wars precipitate"
.––Donna Seaman, ALA Booklist
"What a find...to settle into Paul West's lyrical recollections of his father and to track West's adolescent evolution toward that stunning moment when a son realizes the complicated emotional circuitry of that figure long accepted as being as uncomplicated as a god.... As England lurches toward yet another war to end all wars...the son comes to see the difficult dynamics of the past and the hard dignity of a generous heart savagely bent by war.... West invests the ordinary experiences of his adolescence with extraordinary dimension through the apparently effortless exertion of rich language that confers on these memories the sheen of significance."--Joseph Dewey, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. XXV, No. 3, Fall 2005
"The book explores the mystery of war and its effects and even more deeply the mystery of what it is to be male--especially male and British in the mid-20th century...My Father's War is partly anti-war and partly not. Even with all the all of the uneasy memories, West cannot help honoring his father and the ethic of the honorable soldier. Each piece is like endlessly asking the koan 'Who?' Who is this father? Who is Paul West? What is this culture--steeped in the baffling suffering of war--that created them both?"--Pamela Goddard, Ithaca Times
"In My Father's War Paul West writes with the precision of a scientist, the authority of an historian, and the insightfulness of a poet. This is a brave and beautiful memoir, and West remains one of our great chroniclers of life and the imagination."--Brad Morrow

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