A Hundred Years to Arras – Jason Cobley

Published By: Unbound
Pages: 312
Released On: 19/08/2021

On a painful, freezing Easter Monday in 1917, Private Robert Gooding Henson of the Somerset Light Infantry is launched into the Battle of Arras. Robert is 23 year’s old, a farmer’s boy from Somerset, who joins up against his father’s wishes, Robert forms fast friendships with Stanley, who lied about his age to go to war, and Ernest, whose own slippery account betrays a life on the streets. Their friendship is forged through gas attacks, trench warfare, freezing in trenches, hunting rats, and chasing down kidnapped regimental dogs. Their life is one of mud and mayhem but also love and laughs.

This is the story of Robert’s journey to Arris and back, his dreams and memories drawing him home. His story is that of the working-class Tommy, the story of thousands of young men who were caught in the collision between old rural values and the relentlessness of a new kind of war.

*****

Thanks to Jason for the gifted copy of his novel in return for an honest review.

Everything is described so perfectly that you can envisage everything going on that you might as well be in the middle of the action, even down to the way the main character’s nervousness is portrayed. But this isn’t just true for the war scenes, you can put yourself in the civilian scenes too and they’re just as powerful.

We’ve all read war books, fiction and non-fiction, and we know all the stories, but this has a fresh outlook on the soldiers’ journeys. [MINOR SPOILER ALERT] You find out in the epilogue that the novel’s author, Jason, is actually related to the novel’s protagonist, which puts a different spin on it – you can understand why it is so passionately written.

At over 300 pages, there was a risk that it might drag, it it is fast paced – both in the war scenes and home scenes – which means it is a brisk read that is thoroughly enjoyable.

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