“Jack Adams works as a gamekeeper. The Great War has already started when a chance meeting with a serving officer introduces him to a new kind of warfare, sniping.” – Blurb
This is an incredibly easy-to-read fictional story of a young lad facing the atrocities of war, becoming a hero and a man, and yet still trying to have a life back home that he misses dearly. By all accounts, it would resonate with most soldiers and families at that time, and what Atherton does is create a world that you can become totally transfixed with. As a reader you find yourself routing for most of the characters and despising others because of their actions. Using real places and battles, the books is a reminder of the horrors of war and doesn’t let it slip past you that it is based on true events.
It can seem sometimes that accounts of history in fiction novels can carry a much clearer message than a memoir, diary or even photograph. The use of language can be interpreted differently in fiction and create deeper meanings and, I think, allows for a more thorough understanding of war. The freedom to be creative and use a whole host of adjectives can sometimes create a more vivid image than when just recounting factual events. Atherton does this brilliantly. In just the first page you conjure up images of the wildness of war in his comparison between the cold nights in France and the rabbits running wild at home. He shows very simply how easy it is to be so unlucky in war; “…it had been two days since that shot, the one that had had his name on it and which missed by less than an inch. Clearly, his name had been spelled incorrectly.”
Sometimes, though, the descriptions of war can become tiresome and I found myself flicking through pages to get on with the story. The constant use of the word ‘stupid’ to describe the war, although accurate, seemed lazy and irritating.
However, the general story was exciting, full of action, friendship, and heart-break. The story conveys Atherton’s in-depth knowledge of the subject perfectly. The need to find out what happens to each and every character means you won’t put this book down and leave it for a few days, you’ll want to steam through every page.
I don’t think that there is any age limitations on reading this book. Secondary school students should definitely be told to pick it up as it’s an effortless read that says so much so simply, and is akin to Michael Murpurgo’s Private Peaceful. Adults alike would be interested whether they have a passion for military history or not thanks to the personalities of the characters and how easy it can be to relate them to real-life. Highly recommended.
The Long Shot is the first instalment of the story, followed later by A Shot in the Shadows.
Published by Michael Atherton
Available from michaelatherton.info/shop and Amazon