Really? Really. Four years into the WW1 centenary and four years since the start of this reading odyssey. In 317 posts, Great War 100 Years has documented 90 books read, over 200 monuments and memorials each Monday, and more interviews and musings.
Year three ended and year four started with my exploring the growing scholarship on medical women in the war. (Bravo to those bringing these fascinating stories back to life!) Now I’ve turned back to fiction for the most part. Some by authors who lived through the war. Most written from a longer view perspective in the last 30 years. A few with most exquisite prose. A range of voices showing the experiences of war for women, men and beasts.
At four years in, I’m not at all bored. WW1 is a subject with a long reach. For a century now, it has provided rich fodder for stories. Those stories explore an array of universal themes: the boundaries of morality … what constitutes patriotism, honour, compassion and courage … endurance of physical and mental distress … changing gender roles and relationships … politics and propaganda … the cost of compliance and of dissent … hope, cynicism, confidence, despair … how individual and collective memory evolves over time.
This spring found us again in northern France – no grand WW1 tour this time, but instead a search for remnants of medieval architecture. However, one cannot avoid WW1 remnants in Champagne, Normandy, Paris and Picardy. We came upon the remembrances in rebuilt Gothic cathedrals, on street corners, and in vast cemeteries with thousands and thousands buried row on row.
Closer to home, I’m still discovering monuments and memorials. Without a comprehensive catalogue, they are not always easy to find. Sometimes they are hiding in plain sight. They document a resolve to remember and sometimes a desire to forget.
My thanks again to the authors who have so generously agreed to be interviewed, and to friends still willing to come along for the ride in my search for monuments. To the growing number of you who follow my journey, thank you for your support and your comments, on and off line. I value your thoughts. Please feel free to weigh in more.
We’re in the home stretch now. At the one-year mark, I boldly predicted that I should surpass the 100 book goal by November 2018. Alas, I have never been able to match the reading pace of that first year (which I lay entirely at the feet of my day job). So I’m quietly blurring the lines around the end date for this project. I’m feeling anxious about the ticking clock … will I have time for all I want to read? Stay tuned.
There’s a long, long trail a-winding
Into the land of my dreams
Where the nightingales are singing
And the white moon beams.
There’s a long, long night of waiting
Until my dreams all come true
Till the day when I’ll be going
Down that long, long trail with you.
Chorus, There’s a Long, Long Trail A-Winding. Lyrics by Stoddard King, music by Zo Elliott.