Review: Thy Son Liveth by Grace Duffie Boylan

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 Thy Son Liveth
 Grace D. Boylan
Publication Date: 1918
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 3 Stars

Grace Duffie Boylan’s first edition of Thy Son Liveth was written anonymously for fear that she would be ridiculed by her peers. This book is very different from her other works. It is non-fiction…about her son who had just been killed in Flanders fighting in World War I. Furthermore, it is an exact transcription of their conversations via Morse code on a telegraph machine…after he died.

Review_A few days ago I went to see the documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old” in theaters. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s WWI footage that’s essentially been remastered, colorized, and dubbed so that the 100 year old film appears and sounds much as it would today. When I came out of the theater I was dying to pick up a book about WWI, so I rummaged through everything I owned and realized pickings were slim. I had about 3 non-fiction books and 2 historical fictions to pick from. This was the smallest, so I grabbed it first.

I didn’t quite know what I was getting into with Thy Son Liveth. I thought it was fiction, a collection of letters that an author had penned and tacked together to offer some hope or comfort to the grieving mothers, wives, and children of WWI and beyond, but in fact, it claims to be an entirely true account of communication from the afterlife. Given the nature of this book and the polarizing subject matter, this’ll probably read less a review and more a discussion. Boylan was widowed and raised her son largely by herself. He was fascinated with wireless communication and became an aficionado, eventually piecing together an antenna and other necessary equipment and fixing it to the roof. So he could practice his craft, he urged his mom to learn Morse code. She did, and would often receive and send messages with him. Before long, WWI began and Bob (the son) was shipped to France where he was promptly gunned down and killed by the Germans – although, according to his communications, he wasn’t dead in the traditional way of thinking. 

I only want to start this whole propaganda of comfort on the one sure thing: there is no death.

Immediately after being killed, and a month before the notice that he’s “dead” comes through the mail, Bob sends his mother a message via Morse code. Within a few messages, they realize that with some concentration Bob can talk to his mother directly through her mind and she begins using automatic writing to take down his messages. He describes the afterlife to her as best he can, but his main focus is in stressing the fact he’s as alive as ever, just on a different plane of existence. He wants his mother to spread the word to her friends and encourage them to try to communicate with their dead sons because tears and grief trouble them in the plane they’re at. Plus, it’s unnecessary since lines of communication could be opened if everyone suspended their disbelief. 

We look as we did in the flesh. It seems almost as though we had only slipped out of our skins, as the snakes do.


Review: Daughters of the War by Lizzie Page

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Title: Daughters of the War
 Lizzie Page
Publication Date: November 12, 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 2.5 Stars

An emotional tale of wartime love and sacrifice, inspired by an incredible true story…

As a teenager in Chicago, May always dreamed of travelling the world. So when she meets handsome George Turner, she jumps at the chance to return to London as his wife. Ten years later, May is wondering if she’s made a terrible mistake.

It’s 1914 and war has been declared in Europe. All around, brave young men are being called up to serve. George, banned from conscription himself, has taken to the bottle, and May suspects he’s seeing other women too. She longs for a way to escape.

The chance comes when May meets veteran nurse Elsie, who persuades May to join the war effort. May knows nothing of nursing – it will be difficult, dangerous work, but her heart is telling her it’s the right thing to do.

But then George does the unthinkable and May’s future is put at risk. Will she have to make the impossible choice between duty to her family and her promise to the soldiers on the front line? And can she live with the consequences if her husband goes through with what he’s threatening to do?

Daughters of the War is the second of three books by Lizzie Page focusing on female nurses during WWI, all of which can be read separately (although I suspect there were a few Easter eggs included tying in the first book which I missed). The actual subject of this book is what drew me in and made me request a copy. Female war stories are my favorite to read about, and it’s fairly rare to find a WWI story with the market so saturated by WWII at the moment.

Unfortunately, this book and I weren’t as well suited for each other as I had hoped. May, the main character, was a bit too gloomy and morose for me. I’m very appreciative of the fact that the author chose to depict mental illness, especially in a time period where it was still very taboo, but it drug the story down a bit for me. The plot of the story (nursing wounded soldiers, an unhappy marriage, etc.) was grim already, and while it’s understandable that a character faced with a life of grim realities would be depressed, I felt that there was too much doom and gloom. Because I had such a hard time connecting with May, I had a very difficult time engaging in the story and I found myself skimming for the action-y bits.

If you’re a fan of WWI or female war stories, I would encourage you to give this a try in spite of my qualms. It’s been very well received by others. If only May and I had gotten along better!

2.5 Stars

ARC provided in exchange for an honest review