The Other Side of the Trench
G S Willmott, author
Garry Willmott has released a revised edition of The Other Side of the Trench: this second edition streamlines and refines the events of the first edition, without losing any of the essence of the earlier version. This is a more tightly woven, more precise narrative that intertwines historical fact with imagined characters. Structurally it is a tour de force; Willmott skilfully creates a contemporary drama among the ‘pilgrims’ travelling to various battle sites of World War 1 to honour their ancestors, which he parallels with a re-enactment of the emotions and challenges experienced many years earlier among the young soldiers facing battle. It is a novel that works on many levels and it is impossible to locate it within any single genre; it is all the more impressive as it blends a considerable amount of informative research with elements of magic realism and realistic human drama. It manages to work on a spiritual level as well, thanks to the creation of an ingenious narrator. The incidents he selectively recounts are accumulated for maximum impact. It is an important book. Not only does it remind us of the courage and sacrifice of all the young Australians who lost their lives on the Western Front but it reminds us of the significance of those battles that are often overlooked in favour of Gallipoli. There are some unforgettable moments in this book; the characters of the dead and missing soldiers stay with us. It’s a haunting reminder that bodies and bones are still being uncovered in foreign fields but they’ve not yet had appropriate burials and they remain largely unidentified and unclaimed. Through writing this story, the author seeks peace for these lost souls. By showing the waste and futility of war, he also seeks a more general lasting peace for mankind.