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The Wars

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  4,180 ratings  ·  164 reviews
Sixty years after the armistice, the horrors of the First World War were still spurring antiwar literature, one of the most compelling of which is Timothy Findley's The Wars. Slim and elliptical, but told with a level-headed, lyrical clarity, The Wars traces the atrocities and absurdities of war through the journey of a young Canadian officer through trenches in which barb...more
Published (first published 1977)
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K.D. Absolutely
Feb 28, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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...more
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 expect...more
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 cl...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...more
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...more
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...more
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 mai...more
Timothy Findley's "The Wars" was a novel which chronicles the events surrounding Robert Ross. I won't spoil anything, but I will say that it was a very moving book. There were a number of times I had to fight to prevent my eyes from watering. The entire book is pieced together from various accounts and transcriptions, which was fascinating. I found the narrative effective at conveying the atmosphere and emotion. The scenes are lodged in my mind vividly. My reaction may have also been in part due...more
Rick Patterson
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
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...more
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...more
Janna Avon
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...more
Oooh, this is another one that I really loved, and I love how he wrote and structured it. I've always loved the more postmodernist Canadian novels, I think they leave a lot for the reader to interpret and put together for themselves, and that's always better than being shoved a bunch of ideas and TOLD what to think.
I'm probably gonna read this again some other time, so no point in review. But great, yes.
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.

I had rated the book 4 to 4½ stars originally but the more I thought about the book and its story while writing my Dutch review for the Netherlands & Flanders group's Autumn Challenge 2014 (message 30), the stronger my appreciation for this very cleverly written...more
Mary Billinghurst
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...more
Was told that this was the worst book in existence. It is now clear to me that this recommendations came from peers who do not share the same interest in war that I carry.

I have always been fond of war stories, and to be honest, the parts of this novel that include war descriptions and live battle are quite entertaining and very realistic, which I applaud.

For me however, the excitement of this story only lies in its violence. This book begins with its ending, and you start this book by trying...more
Ranfateh Chattha
The Wars by Timothy Findley is the gripping tale of Robert Ross, a young Canadian soldier who enlists in the army after the tragic death of his sister, and his experience as a second lieutenant in the Canadian field artillery during the World War I. It is a story of blind determination and warranted hesitation, pure love and senseless hatred, hope and despair and (ultimately) right and wrong. It follows Robert Ross from his journey to England on the S.S. Masanabie to his deployment to the trench...more
My one star is a literal response to the "didn't like it" text: I felt that The Wars was needlessly messy and incoherent, mistaking a mimetic response to chaos as a productive literary avenue. Findley's writing is not as good as I remembered from reading Not Wanted on this Voyage, and I often felt as if the images were either belaboured or mistily elusive. The repeated passage was a nice touch, but as a saving grace it hardly manages to salvage the other 190-odd pages.
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.
I didn't enjoy this book as much as I had hoped to.

The Wars is short, which I usually consider a positive, but it has so many characters! Nothing that is important to understanding Robert Ross is given the time it needs. When it came to his final blaze of glory, little of what had came before felt significant. For instance, I had no idea why Robert would be affected by Harris' injury and death, because we were told almost nothing about why they had bonded so closely before the hospital.

This lead...more
We read this book in my eleventh grade english class this year, and it was easily my favourite of all the books we studied. Like with A Good House, the first time I read it I was alright with it but I was hardly in love with it. However, having read and discussed the book further in class I decided it was pretty well written, and the more I read it the more impressed I was. By the time we were through with it it was one of my favourite books of all time. I found the characters interesting, lovea...more
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.
As a fledgeling PhD student learning the ropes of conducting research, I never would have imagined that this book (selected as part of my university's Alumni Book Club) would have so much to say about me, specifically as a researcher of Robert Ross' eventful life. It helps that I am hooked on narrative inquiry and TiF, may he rest in peace, seems to have been of the same mind. According to his current biographer, much of the data he collected came from his uncle (and namesake) Thomas Irving Find...more
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'.
"Think of any great man or woman. How can you separate them from the years in which they lived? You can't. Their greatness lies in their response to that moment."

"Everyone who's born has come from the sea. Your mother's womb is just the sea in small. And birds come out of seas in eggs. Horses lie in the sea before they're born. The placenta is the sea. And your blood is the sea continued in your veins. We are the ocean--walking on the land."

"Robert struck a match and caught the rat by the tail....more
Chris Howard
scary humans, to do this to one another.
The First World War from a Canadian perspective; that is not a subject often explored by authors. Some would say with reason. We were a tiny army in a big war with very influential nations. Still, there were Canadians who served at the front and lived the horrors of warfare. This novel serves as a reminder of that fact. Officer Robert Ross is not just some statistic. He had a story and changed other people's stories too.

What also intrigued me was the challenges the novel faced. Having won the G...more
Rating: 3.5/5

English class introduced me to this book and I'm kind of glad my teacher chose it for our curriculum.

It was very boring (for me) in the beginning. When I initially read it, I was literally forcing myself to continue. I'm not sure which section of the book started to pique my interest, but I eventually got more interested in it as the pages went by, although it was a slow start.

There are dozens of metaphors, allusions, and symbolism in this book. Most of them are so minuscule, that...more
I had to the read this for the purposes of my English class. I wouldn't say it was excruciatingly difficult to read but not being interested in depressing War novels, it's was exactly my cup of tea. The way it is written, it's so intensely metaphorical. If your way of thinking isn't in such a way, most of this book's significant events will just fly right over your head. I was interested in what would happen next and that's probably the only thing that made reading the book smoother. Otherwise,...more
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...more
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CBC Books: November '14 - The Wars, by Timothy Findley 8 19 Oct 20, 2014 10:45PM  
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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.
More about Timothy Findley...
Not Wanted on the Voyage The Piano Man's Daughter Pilgrim Headhunter Famous Last Words

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“I doubt we will ever be forgiven. All I hope is – they'll remember we were human beings” 27 likes
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