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The Wars

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  5,857 Ratings  ·  255 Reviews
Robert Ross, a sensitive nineteen-year-old Canadian officer, went to war - the War to End All Wars. He found himself in the nightmare world of trench warfare; of mud and smoke, of chlorine gas and rotting corpses. In this world gone mad, Robert Ross performed a last desperate act to declare his commitment to life in the midst of death.The Wars is quite simply one of the be ...more
Paperback, 218 pages
Published August 20th 2001 by faber and faber (first published 1977)
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K.D. Absolutely
Dec 23, 2014 K.D. Absolutely rated it it was amazing
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books
I almost did it last night. When I finished this book, I was too overjoyed by its beauty, I thought of putting the book in front of me, stand up and applaud. It’s just that I was not at home. I was in a 24-hr Dunkin’ Donuts outlet and people would definitely stare at me and think that I was a losing my mind. I did not know what to do. My head was spinning with joy and I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.

Come to think of it, as a reader, how do you celebrate finishing a great novel? At the
Moving account of one Canadian man’s experience with World War 1. The novel is barely 200 pages, so what we have here is no sweeping coverage of the war, nor an in-depth immersion in the horrors. But we get enough pictures of Robert Ross’s life leading up to the war for his character to shine through and then sufficient samples from the stages of his training and long service at Ypres in Belgium to feel very intimately the destructive power of the “War to End All Wars”. Findley uses plain and ...more
Jan 01, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it
I waited a little while to write this review, because it felt like a book I needed to muse over for a while. But to be honest I don't think the extra time helped; my feelings about this book are still a bit muddled and overwhelming. I did like it very much, although maybe not quite as much by the end as I thought I would at the beginning. I think the narrative structure (although objectively I can say that it works very effectively) kept me from connecting emotionally to the degree that I ...more
I hate reviewing Timothy Findley books. The reason is, I'm always at a loss for words because of how emotionally straining it is to read one of his novels. I hate rereading my review of "Not Wanted on the Voyage" because I realize that my words don't do justice to his books, (and most of my review was a rant about Margaret Atwood.)

Let's not get off track. I'll try to express my feelings about this book as coherently as I can. I'm on such an emotional high from finishing the book, that I feel lik
Jan 03, 2012 Brad rated it really liked it
This review was written in the late nineties (just for myself), and it was buried in amongst my things until today, when I uncovered the journal it was written in. I have transcribed it verbatim from all those years ago (although square brackets indicate some additional information for the sake of readability). It is one of my lost reviews.

Fragments. That is the greatest strength of Canadian Literature for me -- the masterful use of fragments. Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient is certainly
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
World War 1. The trench warfare. Principal protagonists both male, young and handsome. This, and Sebastian Faulk's "Birdsong" (another 1001 book which I would have reviewed, and given five stars, had I not read it long before I joined goodreads).

When you get so much, or even just a second helping, of the same thing your pleasure tends to be less and less. You'll go, hey, I've seen this before: family, war, a little sex and romance, the present's memory suddenly hurtling towards the past, the bea
Oct 15, 2014 HyL rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian-books
Beauty and pain. Pathos and prosaic passion. Heartrending, compassionate, truth. No one says it like Tiff did.

"It's the ordinary men and women who've made us what we are. Monstrous, complacent and mad" (Pg15).

"Staring down expressionless, he watched as his reflection was beaten into submission by the rain" (Pg18).

"All of these actors were obeying some kind of fate we call 'revenge'. Because a girl had died -- and her rabbits had survived her" (Pg23).

Findlay structures characters, narrative and
I struggled to appreciate this book in the beginning because I found no beauty in the writing. It was straightforward, simplistic, even a little patronizing at times. (Like we know 1916 was a leap year if the date is February 29. Thanks.) The characters lay flat for the most part, and I scoffed at the suspense Findley was attempting to construct surrounding "the event with the horses", which I knew would probably disappoint me. I didn't come away feeling like I had become acquainted with the ...more
Rick Patterson
Dec 06, 2015 Rick Patterson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simply one of the best novels ever, this is a stunning read because it immerses the reader so completely into the experience of Robert Ross that it's hard to extract oneself afterward. I found myself thinking and seeing and imagining the way he does for a long while after I had finished the book--or it had finished with me for the time being. For some reason there are a great many books that are ostensibly about the Great War (WWI), including Birdsong and The Ghost Road and Goodbye To All That, ...more
Jan 31, 2015 Booklovinglady rated it it was amazing
The book is a very clever mix of a researcher trying to piece together the actions and short life of 19-year-old Robert Ross during The Great War, and the immense atrocities of the war as seen through the eyes of Robert Ross himself.

Interesting is the plural form of the title: To me it implied both the First World War and the war Robert is fighting within himself...

I had rated the book 4 to 4 stars originally but the more I thought about the book and its story while writing my Dutch review for t
Aug 05, 2016 TJ rated it really liked it
I read this for a student I was tutoring. I found out it was Canadian literature an it's often studied in school. While historical/warfare lit is not my thing, the psychological journey and interrogation of masculinity and the hero was quite nuanced. A lot of different layers and meanings to take from this one. Surprisingly enjoyed it.
Bryan Ma
Jun 13, 2016 Bryan Ma rated it really liked it
Did not understand it at all when I read it for the first time. This is definitely one of those novels that you have to reread multiple times (which I did).

Still don't understand it.

There are some very explicit scenes in this novel. Would not recommend that you read those passages aloud to company as a way to pass the time.

Laura Brennan
Aug 04, 2016 Laura Brennan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
love the commentary on animals within this book, so relatable. why do humans value themselves above any other life form? made me question my morals, overall becoming a bit disgusted with humanity.
Edwin Lang
The book had a solitary feel to it and it seemed like a testament to what a soldier silently endures as one simply tries to survive. Whether a part of a company or an army, it goes against everything man is made to be. It is one thing to suffer deprivation in pursuit of some goal but it is another to suffer in a straightjacket, as the men at Ypres had. It is not so much the sheer waste of it that was horrible and horrifying but to be at the mercy of so much indifferent incompetence.

What lighten
Apr 21, 2015 Gillik rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, fiction
Brutal and raw, and yet because of the narrative technique not a little reserved. Somehow it all works.

I wonder if Findley's intention wasn't to completely upend all the traditional 'war story' cliches. Instead of the loyal band of brothers-in-arms (who die off one by one in the most tearjerking manner possible, preferably after a good death speech), other soldiers drift in and out of Robert Ross' life, often in only a page or two, without us ever learning much about any of them. People lose the
May 26, 2012 Paul rated it really liked it
In 2011, Canadian parents challenged the inclusion of Timothy Findley's award-winning novel The Wars on a high school reading list, describing it as depraved and full of sex. I mentioned the challenge in one of my periodic banned book blog entries and promised myself I'd read it. It took me a year to run down a copy -- it's a Canadian novel from the 1970s and you never see it on book store shelves, at least here in the States -- but with the help of a bookseller friend I tracked it down.

And I'm
Vivian Ton
Dec 29, 2015 Vivian Ton rated it really liked it
I wrote a review earlier but accidentally deleted it. Which was... disappointing, but I'll stop my bemoaning.
Anyway - I read The Wars for the first time this year as we studied it in class, and I've got to say, it's one of those that needs at least a couple rereads to be thoroughly appreciated. Findley's prose is devastatingly beautiful and so visually immersive -- the story of Robert Ross unfolds almost cinematically and reads like a dream. For being such a short read, I admire Findley's skill
Aug 10, 2012 Janna rated it it was amazing
There are two really great things going on in Timothy Findley's The Wars.

Firstly, is the narrative technique. The book is written from the perspective of a historian trying to make sense of a moment of madness in the middle of the First World War. Findley accomplishes this goal through mixed medium narrating, using journal entries, interviews, photographs and the historian's conjecture. This keeps the story mysterious and engages the reader in a sort of detective, choose-your-own-adventure kind
What to say about this book? Who is Robert Ross?

Oh, the difficulty of giving praise to a novel I enjoyed rather than criticizing one I disliked! I've previously read Timothy Findley's The Piano Man's Daughter and honestly don't remember much about it at all. It just wasn't that memorable to me - all I know is that I didn't love or hate it. I vaguely remember the plot, but I don't feel like giving it a re-read to find out more. Disappointment.

And that's why I was so surprised to find out that thi
Dec 09, 2014 Mmars rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.

The Wars by Timothy Findley would be a great pick for a book club looking for a WWI book. It practically begs to be discussed. It is broken into five parts, all focusing on the same Canadian soldier. Each section has a different focus – pre-war at home, the trenches, etc. Written in 1977, to me it seems early in the timeline of disjointed fiction. And, as I have found with many such works, it was a mixed bag. It was interesting to study the various threads and the symbolism scattered t
Dec 13, 2014 Megan rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Noone
Recommended to Megan by: Teacher
I had to read this for my grade 12 English class, and I have to say that it is, without a doubt, one of the worst books I have ever read.
It has horrible pacing, and no consistency as to the "Voice" telling the story. It was supposed to be told from the point of view of a historian, but there was often detail in scenes that the historian couldn't have access to (IE rape scene), Directly followed by a scene that was glossed over that should have been given more time (IE the entire last chapter)
Oct 30, 2014 Rick rated it liked it
This is a very depressing book. If Findley's intention was to demonstrate the futility of war, he certainly achieved his goal. My problem with the book was that I felt as though there was no story. I was horrified indeed, but I was never drawn into the story itself. We hear about Robert, a Canadian fighting in France in WW!. We are told immediately that he died and this is a documentation of how his death occurred. For me this is the root of my problem with the book. It felt more like a ...more
Mary Billinghurst
Jul 13, 2014 Mary Billinghurst rated it really liked it
I reread The Wars recently. I had forgotten how well written it was. Timothy Findley's novel is a powerful illustration of the brutal conditions that existed for the men on the front lines of World War I. Written in 1974, The Wars presented the Great War to a new generation through the experiences of the main character, Robert Ross, a very sensitive soul thrust into an insane world.

The Wars uses the four elements and animals for symbolic significance, and employs a number of narrative viewpoint
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
Required reading for certain. This is a slim novel, but seems as though it were much larger, certainly there is much that weighs heavily on you and slow reading is, in my opinion, a great way to read this great novel. It was amazing - so rich in imagery, humour, horror and symbolism. No other words other than simply: Wow.
I read this in participation of the Goodreads CBC Reads monthly reads program - the first I've ever participated in and I cannot say enough about how much I enjoyed it. I read
My overwhelming feeling when finishing this book was that it was far too full of symbolism for my taste. I really can't appreciate books like this as I miss a lot of the intended point to the story. Reading between the lines has never been something I was good at. So instead of enjoying the story I felt bogged down in the thoughts and expression.
Jul 31, 2014 Claire rated it did not like it
Read this in high school...figured I didn't like Findley and didn't read another one for 5 years...have since really enjoyed sopme of his others...this just wasn't for me...didn't identify at all with the main character - a soldier who loses it during the war and the part that was supposed to be the climax of hte plot (when he lets all the horses go free) fell flat for me.
It was an ok read...
I personally do not enjoy reading about war, but the parts about Robert's personal thoughts were interesting.
The last chapter was by far the most engaging chapter in the book, it was the only chapter my eyes didn't glaze over...
Recommend it to anyone? Probably not.
Jun 09, 2015 Stephanie rated it really liked it
I'm on a Findley roll. I appreciate his ability to add some fresh character and perspective to the story of Canadian experience of WWI. Description of Ross' parents' responses to his enlistment and service especially moved me.
Curtis Wilson
Jun 02, 2016 Curtis Wilson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolutely harrowing account of the First World War. Masterfully written, engrossing and insightful. Findley's writing hides meaning in every character, sneaks motifs into every scene and drives the nail home with symbolism everywhere.

Canadian literature to be proud of.
May 29, 2008 Mel rated it really liked it
Listen to Gimme Shelter by the Rolling Stones as you finish this one off. Bonus points if you're in a car watching Canadian countryside go by. Now brace yourself for a serious 'moment'.
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Timothy Irving Frederick Findley was a Canadian novelist and playwright. He was also informally known by the nickname Tiff or Tiffy, an acronym of his initials.

One of three sons, Findley was born in Toronto, Ontario, to Allan Gilmour Findley, a stockbroker, and his wife, the former Margaret Maude Bull. His paternal grandfather was president of Massey-Harris, the farm-machinery company. He was rais
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“I doubt we will ever be forgiven. All I hope is – they'll remember we were human beings” 39 likes
“People can only be found in what they do.” 29 likes
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