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No Man's Land

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  709 ratings  ·  166 reviews
From the slums of London to the riches of an Edwardian country house; from the hot, dark seams of a Yorkshire coalmine to the exposed terrors of the trenches, Adam Raine’s journey from boy to man is set against the backdrop of a society violently entering the modern world.

Adam Raine is a boy cursed by misfortune. His impoverished childhood in the slums of Islington is
Hardcover, 566 pages
Published June 30th 2016 by HarperFiction
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Average rating 4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  709 ratings  ·  166 reviews

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Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
While reading No Man’s Land I kept thinking that this novel would generate various reactions among its readers as it is easy to read and there is no big effort on the side of the reader. The novel simply offers a good story. Having said that, I must confess I enjoyed it because I came to like Adam. I liked the way he manages to achieve education offered to him by a man of means who recognizes Adam’s integrity and abilities. The part concerning atrocities and soldiers’ plight during WW1 is ...more
Diane S ☔
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 What a beautifully written, but devastating book, this journey into a man's life. Following Adam from his youth in London, to the coal mines in Scarsdale, and to the trench warfare and the Battle of the Somme, this is an epic tale on a grand level. The details, the prose, the characters, their struggles, their hopes and their dreams are all revealed with a personal touch. We come to know some of them so well, it felt as if at times I was right with them, though I was often glad I was not.

Bam cooks the books ;-)
Adam Raine is a poor London boy who moves north to the coal mining district with his father after his mother is killed in an accident during a workers' strike. More tragedy awaits Adam but because others see a certain spark in him, good fortunate comes to him as well, and he is offered a better life and a chance for an education. That is all derailed as WWI begins and nearly all the young men of the town enlist. Those who survive the battle of the Somme (July 1-November 18, 1916), one of the ...more
I did not enjoy reading this, so I cannot give it anything but one star. Seriously, I groaned every time I picked it up.

I in no way take the lofty stance that my review is a judgment of the book; it just expresses my personal reaction to it. I will try and explain what I was looking for and what it gave. The two did not fit.

First of all, I thought I would be given a fictional retelling of J.R.R. Tolkien's life, the acclaimed author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I thought I would
♥ Sandi ❣
Mar 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ♥ Sandi ❣ by: Keep Turning Pages/Doubleday
Thank you to Doubleday and Keep Turning Pages for this novel.

Adam Raine goes from poverty to wealth. Poverty in all it's forms and barrenness, but to the wealth of friendship, love, honor, and respect. Although his life has always been a very hard road to travel, he has always remained his own man. Through the death of both parents, moving into a strange new situation that is way out of his league, the wrath and cunning of a person who should love him like a brother, meddling women of the upper
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
See this and other reviews at: https://historicalfictionreader.blogs...

“Inspired by the real-life experiences of his grandfather, J.R.R. Tolkien, during World War I, Simon Tolkien delivers a perfectly rendered novel rife with class tension, period detail, and stirring action, ranging from the sharply divided society of northern England to the trenches of the Somme.”

I must have read that line three times before glancing at the rest of the description on Simon Tolkien’s No Man’s Land. I’m a World
The Lit Bitch
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So an embarrassing full literary disclosure….I have never read any of The Lord of the Rings books so I have no first hand knowledge of JRR Tolkien’s writing abilities but the popularity of the series speaks for itself. Many have praised this debut novel by Simon Tolkien (JRR’s grandson), as worthy of the Tolkien name in the literary world.

When this novel came across my desk for review, the last name of course immediately captured my attention and I was eager to see what the novel was about.
Nov 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
No Man’s Land is a novel that I can only describe as a beautifully written but devastating book to read. It follows the life of Adam Raine, from his childhood poverty in Islington, a move to a mining community in Yorkshire and then to the trauma at the Somme.
It did take me some time to get into it but I was prepared for this after seeing a handful of reviews that said the same. I found it picked up after a serious accident at the mine that changed Adam’s life completely. He adapted to his life
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it
I find this a difficult book to rate. Perhaps I had too high expectations because of the author's surname, which isn't fair.
It's a good story, but nothing out of the ordinary. I've read more books with such story lines. I would also have liked it to be shorter, it would have given it more speed and sparkle. But I will remember the story because of the detailed happenings the mines and in the trenches in Picardie.
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jean Cole
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Adam Raine's life begins in a poor neighborhood in London. From there he moves to a coal mining town where his father becomes involved in the negotiations between the workers and the local nobleman who owns the mine. Here Adam comes in contact with the people who will influence his life, for good and bad, from the mines to the trenches of World War 1 and back again.
Adam and other characters are convincing, in that each of them has their strengths and weaknesses. Even the villains have their
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
An epic work of master storytelling! Thank you to @Netgalley and @Harperfiction for providing e-ARC. I read this as a Remembrance Day read. Like Findley's The Wars it was a remarkable and moving feat of storytelling honouring those that fought in the Great War.
Bob H
Jan 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
An immersive, broad-canvas story, a coming-of-age against the backdrop of England in the first decades of the 20th Century. The main character, Adam Raine, goes through childhood, youth and young manhood through all the crucibles of the time: a London slum, a gritty north England coal-mine town, a rural country estate, and finally the cauldron of the Western Front. Through this, he has to navigate the tensions of class, labor struggle, social inequality and a collection of well-characterized ...more
“They’re the salt of the earth and we are being told to send them over the top to walk across no man’s land with their packs on their backs. It breaks my heart, or what’s left of it.”

Horror and humanity collide. A window into life in London, Yorkshire, and the trenches a hundred years ago. Tolkien writes like an amalgam of his grandfather and Charles Dickens, but his characters don’t engage the reader. The protagonist offers insights to his situation and feelings, but sounds too modern.

Marc Williams
Jun 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There is a sequence in this book when war is declared and all hell breaks loose as the angry mob set upon a German baker who has lived in London for years. A timely reminder of how prevailing attitudes can change almost instantaneously and events take on an alarming life of their own sweeping all in its wake.

This is great historical fiction following the life of one young man from the streets of Islington to the collieries of northern England and, by a twist of fate, taking up residence in a
Jun 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful book, that completely immerses you in the difficult years of the early 20th century, culminating in the Battle of the Somme and its aftermath. The chapters set at war and in the Yorkshire mine particularly stand out for their power and horror, I cried several times - the writing is so good. I've given this 4 and not 5 stars because of the less successful romance and rivalry strand. An excellent novel nonetheless.

May 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing

I had to adjust my expectations about No Man's Land because I thought it was a WWI book and the protagonist doesn't go off to war until you're at least 40% into the book, but that was not a bad thing. Adam is the hero. Born in London, Adam lives a life of poverty that becomes increasingly desperate when the laborers at his father's workplace go on strike.

After tragedy strikes, his father moves the family to Yorkshire to work at a coal mine. Adam is an excellent student and is bullied,
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
"No Man's Land" is historical fiction set in 1909 to 1919 in England and France. Though the novel is lengthy, the author wasn't wordy. He brought the time period alive with vivid descriptions, and these details didn't slow the story but served to move the story forward. Every scene served to develop the characters into complex, realistic people with a wide range of personalities.

I didn't intend to read this book because the WWI scenes take up nearly half of the book and I knew those scenes would
Angelique Simonsen
Apr 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
good tale. flowed well and the ending was all wrapped up neatly
Maya Panika
Jun 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
The often engaging, sometimes enthralling story of Adam Raine, a working class boy - from his birth in the slums of Islington, through life in the workhouse and mining disasters, to Oxford and the Trenches, his family and friends and enemies, and very much a book of two halves; the second half is stunning, but the first is decidedly slow and clunking and not always very good.
In essence, the first half attempts to be that guaranteed crowd pleaser, a tale of Northern Grimness and mucky money; a
Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Simon Tolkien's grandfather left some mighty big shoes to fill. But Simon is an absolutely excellent writer in his own right. I simply could not put this book down until I finished it. I was lucky enough to win an advanced copy of this book via an online giveaway but it took me some time to begin reading it. Books as thick as this one can often seem a daunting task however I was very sad to realise I finished so quickly. We follow Adam, a young boy born to a poor family who attempts to find a ...more
Cece Reed
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I would like to thank DoubleDay Turning pages for winning a copy of this book! Having only read The Hobbit by Tolkien's grandfather, I wasn't able to form any thoughts on this prior to reading. Loved the concept of the book and based on his grandfather's experiences regarding war and class division etc. Some of my favorite genre is WW1 & 2 so this was a perfect read for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly encourage for lovers of historical fiction, J R R Tolkien fans alike!
In the beginning, this book and I were friends. I was quietly enjoying our moments of solitude. I was immersed in the world of young Adam Reine. When tragedy first touched Adam's life and moved him to Scarsdale with his hardworking father, I was still ok with story. Once we entered the coal mines and the dreary locale, I lost interest. So much tragedy; one thing after the other. Depression set in and I questioned my loyalty to a book companion that caused so much darkness. I set the book aside. ...more
Loraine Oliver
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed-books
Simon Tolkien has written a wonderful book based on his grandfather JRR Tolkien's experiences during WW1, and its aftermath. Although this book is fiction it is based on facts.

Adam Raine is a man who has had a rough upbringing and poverty in turn of the century London and tragedy strikes when his mom is killed in a protest march. After this happens his father is barely able to make it through the despair and loss he has suffered as well. After this they go to Scarsdale to work as miners. Adam
Joe Tingle
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
An epic book with a strong central character. The protagonist's arc from troubled but idealistic youth to warfighter scarred by the horrors of the Great War is a worthwhile one, and told in a captivating way. Several interesting side characters give the story color, but the plot stays focused on the protagonist and never strays too long off on other threads despite its considerable length. While the novel appropriates both the setting of the early 20th century labor movement, and later the Great ...more
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I gotta say, this is one of the best books I've read in months. Honestly. The writing is superb and even though the subject (WWI trenches) is at times painful to read about, I felt compelled to persist. The characters are so well-constructed that readers can't help but engage. And even though the portrayal of the war is vivid and brutal, as a reader, I never felt helpless or depressed. Somehow, the author brought a sense of hope to the circumstances and I loved the ending. Will be reading more ...more
Elizabeth Johnson
I originally picked this up because the name caught my eye -- Simon is the grandson of the famous J.R.R. Tolkien -- but I ended reading it because the topic piqued my interest. It was a five-star fictionalized account of Adam Raine, a poor London boy who loses his mother, moves to a small mining town, loses his father, falls in love, earns a scholarship to Oxford, and eventually faces the horrors of World War I. While fiction, it stayed true to the hard culture of mining towns and gave a ...more
Kathie Samples
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I hated to reach the end of this book. First, it was about a poor London boy , Adam Raines, uprooted to the English coal country in Yorkshire.His father dies while saving the life of the Lord of the manor and owner of the coal mine. Lord John Scarsdale takes Adam under his wing and makes it possible for him to pursue his studies which ultimately bring him to Oxford.

But The Great War intervenes and Adam and Lord John's eldest son find themselves in the trenches. Simon Tolkien's grandfather is JRR
Jun 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Main focus of this book is descriptions of Battle of the Somme in WWI, from British perspective. In graphic detail and at length. Around it is built a David Copperfield - like story of one man from childhood through the war and a bit into the post-war period. The story could get a bit predictable at time, nevertheless I found it pretty gripping. It is loosely based on JRR Tolkein's war experiences; the author is his grandson.
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Poor boy makes good in this pedestrian tale that wanders from the London slums to a mining community to a country house and the trenches of the Somme. It didn’t hold my interest as I found it far too predictable, sentimental and at times melodramatic, with one-dimensional characters and a good smattering of clichés and purple prose. Conventional and formulaic and far too long.
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Simon Tolkien was born in England in 1959 and grew up in a small village outside Oxford. His grandfather was J.R.R. Tolkien, professor of philology and the author of The Lord of the Rings. Simon was educated by Benedictine monks at Downside School, and then went on to Oxford University, where he studied Modern History at Trinity College. Since 1994, he has been a successful barrister in London, ...more
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“And he needed to be able to look at himself in the mirror without having to turn away - he couldn't bear to be less than he hoped he was. It was a virtue and a fault that he would carry with him all his life.” 3 likes
“You can't win because of the guns," said Adam with a sigh. "Machine guns, mortars, field guns, howitzers: it doesn't matter how much courage soldiers have, how much will; flesh and blood can't pass through bullets and shells, or at least not in sufficient numbers to have any effect. The guns win in the end and they always will. Not us, not the Germans - the guns.” 1 likes
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