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review 2019-04-21 15:49
At the going down of the sun...
Nobody of Any Importance - New,Phil Sutcliffe

The passing of the one hundredth Remembrance Day since the end of the Great War 1914-18, last November, gave good reason (if it was needed) to revisit some of the written records of that gloomy period of European history. Often poignant, the poetry, letters and tragic lists of the fallen offer reminders, lest we forget, of the sacrifice of a generation. However, given the colossal loss of life, what sometimes appears absent from contemporary accounts is a view from the non-commissioned ranks, a ‘Tommy’s’ experience from the trenches of the front lines. As such, this memoir by Cpl Sam Sutcliffe, collated/edited by his son Phillip, offers a telling insight into the chaos of conflict visited on so many and the mind-set of those so often cast as ‘cannon-fodder’. Even allowing for the retrospective writing of this lengthy book, the vivid descriptions created by the author and the accompanying endnotes, cross-referencing a wide range of confirmatory material, make this a sobering but compelling read.
The title of the book gives an immediate flavour of the self-effacing humility of the author and yet he goes on to describe joining up aged just sixteen, with his older brother (Ted) and friends (in fact, Sam lied about his age, as the youngest recruit allowed was 19). The swell of public patriotic fervour in 1912 and the casual acceptance of the need to do ‘one’s duty’, in hindsight, seems naive. Moreover, the apparent absence of apprehension suggests a misunderstanding of the carnage of war. The phlegmatic acceptance of Sutcliffe’s parents to their young son’s decision also perhaps an echo of the national willingness to tolerate sacrifice. Though later, conscription became necessary and through his journey the author develops a certain cynicism about those who avoided service altogether and those who sought to distance themselves from the trenches at the front line, tempered only by the psychological breakdowns he witnessed there.


Subsequently Sutcliffe’s tender age did confer a temporary reprieve. Still not eighteen, the author had already fought in the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign and the first battle of the Somme, rising to the rank of acting Sergeant, when he was plucked briefly to safety until 1917 (when he became nineteen) and could be returned to the western front, in time for the anticipated Spring offensive. Captured during that monumental effort by Germany to end the war, Sutcliffe relates his subsequent experience as a prisoner-of-war and an equally challenging personal struggle to just stay alive and survive the attendant risk of disease and privation.


This book is an extraordinary account of a teenager’s experience of a brutal conflict that culminated in a vast body count. After Gallipoli (wherein having been evacuated his unit was returned to cover the withdrawal of the foremost positions), the author laments the decimation of his original battalion of volunteers from London, culled from a thousand men to around just two hundred. Indeed the scale of this loss appears to haunt Sutcliffe throughout his account and his perspective clearly changes regarding the veneer of national pride, which he sees laid bare amid such abject failure.


At times the book reads like a novel. For example, the author is separated from his brother early on, but their paths cross several times in the course of the war. Yet, there is no disguising the sense of relief when the siblings both survive, albeit Ted’s exposure to gas in the trenches had a lasting effect. No commentary on the strategic mistakes pored over by historians in subsequent decades, nor criticism of the class system which conferred leadership roles on some ill-equipped to inspire others, though Sutcliffe does single out a couple of officers revered for their compassionate and resilient example, who did indeed lead from the front. Nonetheless, the reader is left with the distinct impression that notwithstanding his protestations to the contrary, Sam Sutcliffe’s contribution was indeed heroic and it is the collective efforts of many such ‘nobodies’ and a preparedness to do their ‘bit’ that ultimately made the crucial difference. We shall remember them...

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review 2016-03-03 21:16
Thought provoking.
Concentr8 - William Sutcliffe
I thought this was an excellent Young Adult book, with just the right amount of suspense to keep the attention of youngsters, while sending out an interesting message about the power of drug companies and the ease with which drugs can be prescribed.
 
In a future Britain, Concentr8 is the new Ritalin and it has been prescribed to all children who are in any way disruptive. Huge numbers of children are on this drug, manipulated by the drug companies, who have convinced the government to give pay-outs to parents of children who take the drug.
Then, suddenly, there is a policy change and the drug is withdrawn to save money. Massive riots break out across the country, as children try to cope with their new-found energy.
 
 
Five teenagers; Troy, Karen, Lee and Femi, led by Blaze, go out to see the riots that are going on in their town. On a whim, they take a hostage and tie him to a radiator in an empty warehouse. What do they want? What will they do with the hostage? And how will it all end??
 
Each chapter is narrated by one of the youngsters, a journalist, the mayor, or the negotiator and it's interesting to see events from so many perspectives. 
There are also interesting quotes from leading professionals in the field of ADD and ADHD at the end of each chapter.
 
Also read:
The Wall by William Sutcliffe (5*)
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review 2015-08-11 18:52
Concentr8. Pretty good but I lost concentration!
Concentr8 - William Sutcliffe
  Interesting read, also informative (although not, strangely necessarily within the story) It's also a fast read, one of those books with short snappy chapters that can either work really well, or not so much. We'll come to that.

Anyway, Concentr8 is the drug choice in this novel, kids are on it through an official policy and then the programme is stopped. Riots ensue. We join the story when said riots are in full swing and we follow a group of kids who have kidnapped some guy off the street, plus we get the point of view of the mayor, a reporter and the kidnapped man himself.

This novel worked in making you think about the issues - ADHD and ritalin and all of that sort of thing in our real world, there are some little information snippets at the beginning of each chapter which were fascinating in part. There is enough character definition there for you to really begin to wonder how much of it is them and how much of it is withdrawal, and link that to the realistic circumstance under which a child is diagnosed with ADHD and medicated. So if the authors intention was to get people to at least consider all this stuff then job done.

The problem I found was in the narrative voices, especially with regards to the kids who all pretty much read the same. They all sounded alike and I often had to double check the chapter heading to see who's point of view I was actually on. This lessened as the story continued because they all had their own arcs but at first it was a bit annoying. Really if I'm honest there wasn't that much difference to the adult narrative voices either. My very personal opinion is that this might have been better written from one, maybe two points of view rather than the mish mash we got.

I actually think that is tied into the short snappy chapter thing. You were not with any one person long enough to get a feel for them and by the time you got back to them you'd forgotton what you thought they were like in the first place. Erm I'm sounding convoluted now but you know what I mean! (Hopefully)Again then, written from 2 points of view with short snippets might have worked better for me as a reader.

There are a lot of plus points as well, it is a quick fire, intriguing premise and an interesting question. The actions of both children and adults were well imagined in order to create questions and get you involved, the kind of "what if" scenario type novel that is always inviting.

Well imagined, perhaps could have been executed better for me. Still worth a read though.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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text 2015-03-11 17:13
"Top 5 Books That Made Me Think" - Top 5 Wednesday
The Royal Game & Other Stories - Stefan Zweig,Jill Sutcliffe
Job: The Story of a Simple Man - Joseph Roth,Dorothy Thompson
The Reader - Bernhard Schlink,Carol Brown Janeway
Nineteen Minutes - Jodi Picoult
Living Dead Girl - Elizabeth Scott

Top 5 Wednesday was created by gingerreadslainey. Check out heryoutube channel! Basically, every Wednesday there is a chosen topic to which you list your top 5. If you want to join, have a look at the goodreads page!

 

This week's topic is really interesting to me since I am a fantasy reader who only occasionally picks up other books. Looking at my list it's obviously those other books that make me think. 

 

5. Schachnovelle ("The Royal Game" or "Chess Story") by Stefan Zweig

What stayed with me the longest after I read this book was how boredom can be used as torture. Being stuck in a room with absolute nothing to occupy your mind with can make one crazy. I always imagined torture as something physical but the simplest things can be used as torture. 

 

4. Hiob ("Job") by Joseph Roth

Hiob stood out to me because of its sad story. I cried so much while reading this book. The errors of the father, the hardship of immigration, and the way fate turned out had my heart aching.

 

3. Der Vorleser ("The Reader") by Bernhard Schlink

For me, Hanna was a very interesting character. I love how Schlink wrote about this very difficult topic. I was mortified how Hanna's simple mind worked during and after Nazi-Germany. But at the same time I felt for her. We are always judging so quickly about the people in Nazi Germany but tend to forget that very smart people were fooled by this propaganda. How do we expect the more simple-minded people to not fall for it?

 

2. 19 Minutes by Jodi Picoult

I absolutely loved this book. Jodi Picoult is my go-to author when it comes to difficult topics. She does not hold back when she writes about a school massacre and what led to it. We all know how students can be during High School and for once an author wrote about the not always oh so innocent victims.

 

1. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

This book left me with goosebumbs. What made me think the most though, was how this girl left the apartment while she was hold captive. Her captivity was more psychological. People saw her in these little-girl-outftits and saw her bruises but nobody did question it. It left me wondering how many abused childen I might see during my daily life and not realising it. After I finished this book I promised myself that I would be more attentive in the future.

 

Have you read any of these? What books made you think?

 

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review 2014-11-02 23:44
Very powerful.
The Wall - William Sutcliffe

I was hugely impressed by this well balanced book, aimed at Young Adults, and with a hard hitting message. In my opinion, it managed to show both sides of the Israeli, Palestinian situation, how each fears the other and suffers as a result. (Although it never actually mentions these countries by name).

 

Joshua is a teenager, living in Amarias, with his mother and her new husband. His father died serving in the army, but Joshua never understood who he had been fighting against and his father made a point of never leaving the house in his uniform. Liev, Joshua's step-father, is a very different man, who has strong opinions about the threat posed by 'The Other Side'.

 

When Joshua's football goes over a wall into a building site, he climbs over to retrieve it and stumbles upon a tunnel that stretches beyond the wall into an area that represents The West Bank of Palestine. Of course he can't resist investigating and what he sees and learns from this and subsequent visits, will change him forever.

 

Not only does this book offer teenage readers a look at both sides, but the main character, Joshua, presents a good moral model, trying his very best to do what he feels is right, even when it is frightening, and even dangerous to do so. Unfortunately not all his actions have favourable outcomes and in this respect the story is very realistic. It reminded me very much of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, both were highly effective novels.

 

I should mention the excellent narrator, Nicholas Camm, who did an excellent job of reading this novel. Highly recommended to all ages, but particularly effective for teenagers.

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