Remembrance Day Reads

Atlantic Canada’s long military history has inspired some of its most important books

Remembrance Day sparks awe in the heart as we honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice in conflicts like the gruelling tragedy of the First World War and the unspeakable brutality of the Second World War.

Here are five (of the many fine) Atlantic Canadian books that pay tribute to those who fought and suffered in the front lines and on the home front.

I Remain, Your Loving Son: Intimate Stories of Beaumont-Hamel

On July 1, 1916, the 801 fighting men of the Newfoundland Regiment erupted out of their trenches to attack the enemy at Beamont-Hamel, France. Thirty minutes later, all but 68 were dead or wounded.

The devastating shock that sent back home is told in I Remain, Your Loving Son: Intimate Stories of Beaumont-Hamel, edited by Frances Ennis and Bob Wakeham. The non-fiction book brings you into the trench with the men as they write letters to loved ones ahead of the attack.

Readers also hear from the families left home to absorb the grief and the descendants who still honour the great sacrifice today.

Nova Scotia at War, 1914-1919

Author Brian Douglas Tennyson, professor emeritus at Cape Breton University, studies the devastation the Great War left in Nova Scotia. His new book tells of the Nova Scotian men who fought overseas, but also of the civilians left home to work the fishery, farms, forests, coal mines and steel mills.

In Nova Scotia At War, 1914-1919, he argues the economic impact of the war shattered Nova Scotia’s dream of becoming the gateway of the Atlantic and the industrial heartland of Canada. Tennyson’s earlier book, Percy Willmot: A Cape Bretoner at War focused on one man’s story but his new book pulls back for the bigger picture.

More than two dozen photos bring faces to the stories.

Rilla of Ingleside

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne Shirley is an adult with children of her own in Rilla of Ingleside. Montgomery wrote the second-to-last novel of the series in 1921, setting it in 1914 in a world on the brink of war.

Anne has married Gilbert Blythe and together they have a 15-year-old daughter named Rilla and two older boys, Walter and Jem. When the First World War erupts, all three men leave Prince Edward Island to fight in Europe.

Rilla of Ingleside is thought to be the first Canadian novel written by a woman to give a woman’s perspective on the war.

Captured Hearts: New Brunswick’s War Brides

Many Canadian soldiers left the European front of the world wars with more than memories. Thousands of European women fell for the dashing soldiers with tales of plenty from the new world and returned with them as war brides.

Melynda Jarratt’s short book Captured Hearts focuses on the Second World War brides and tells their stories, from finding love in war to settling in to life in New Brunswick after the war. Some 1,800 women and 900 children took the plunge and Jarratt captures their struggle to make a new life in New Brunswick.

The book mixes personal, heart-wrenching stories with a solid overview of the conflict and its aftermath.

A Halifax Christmas Carol

Nova Scotia novelist Steven Laffoley set his first fiction, The Blue Tattoo, in the First Word War and the Halifax Explosion. His second novel, A Halifax Christmas Carol, explores the city’s psyche in December 1918 as soldiers and citizens face the first anniversary of the warn-born disaster.

An elegant story framed around Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, the novel tells the story of a maimed little boy who turns up at a newspaper with a quarter to give to other kids who “need it more” than he does and the soldier-turned-journalist who has to tell his story.

Laffoley paints a striking portrait of a Halifax stunned by the disaster and the just-ended war, yearning for hope and ultimately a peace that will allow them to begin to remember all that was lost.

Written By

Jon Tattrie is the author of The Hermit of Africville; Cornwallis: The Violent Birth of Halifax; Redemption Songs: How Bob Marley’s Nova Scotia Song Lights the Way Past Racism and several other titles.

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