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The Wars

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  7,680 ratings  ·  385 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 b
Paperback, 218 pages
Published August 20th 2001 by Faber and Faber (first published 1977)
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  7,680 ratings  ·  385 reviews

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K.D. Absolutely
Aug 02, 2009 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
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Wars by Timothy Findley is one of my favorite novels.

Written in 1977, the title of the novel refers both to WW1 and the psychological effects of warfare on the psyche of our protagonist Robert Ross. The war within the war so to speak.

Robert is from Lethbridge Alberta and the novel follows him as a 17 year old on the prairie, then through the war in France and continuing with his leave and convalescence in England.

Back home Robert is raised by a cold mother and a more caring father. After a
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
Feb 12, 2014 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 expect ...more
Mikey B.
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mikey B. by: Aloke
Shelves: canada, fiction
I was very impressed by this war novel – one of the best I have read. The more I progressed in the book, the more enamored I became, and drawn into the different settings and characters.

All was wonderfully envisioned as one becomes immersed in the narrative. The ending is (view spoiler), but after all this is war – a vast barbaric machine.

I had never heard of this Canadian author, so thanks go to the GR network!

The first twenty to thirty pages are rather intangible, but
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
Rick Patterson
Apr 02, 2014 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 03, 2012 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
Jun 03, 2011 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
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I remember reading a book by Timothy Findley as a teenager in Toronto. My parents had a copy of "The Last of the Crazy People" on their shelves and I randomly picked it up. I think the cover appealed to me. I don't remember much about it now except that it made me feel uncomfortable. Looking it up I see it's considered a pioneer of the "Southern Ontario gothic" genre! Not really YA I guess.

Fast forward a few decades and a Facebook acquaintance posted this link to required reading for students a
Sep 27, 2014 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
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I wanted this to expand on my WWI reading experience. It did in a rather minor way. Many of the books on trench warfare speak of the mud. Findley does a better job of making this phenomenon real than anything else I've read.
The mud. There are no good similes. Mud must be a Flemish word. Mud was invented here. Mudland might have been its name. The ground is the colour of steel. Over most of the plain there isn't a trace of topsoil: only sand and clay. The Belgians call them 'clyttes,' these fiel
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 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school
Canadian attitudes towards war are strangely more encapsulating than American attitudes. There seems no definitive pride in victory; only in living.
Aug 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit-fic, reviewed
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
Oct 02, 2014 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
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wars by Timothy Findley follows the story of fictional character Robert Ross and his journey as a soldier during the First World War. I thought Robert was a very captivating character because of the experiences he had gone through before the war. One of the main reason why he decided to enlist in the war was to escape the grief he was feeling for the death of his older sister. In the war, he survived through the death of many of fellow soldiers as well as the guilt of killing other individuals. ...more
Rhuddem Gwelin
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very sparse, grim and poetical portrayal of a young Canadian soldier in France and England during World War I and his family back in Canada.
Jan 17, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, adult
I don't recommend. Worst book ever. I would only try reading it again to see if I like it in twenty years, or to see whether I was biased based on the school setting that I was in.
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review was a little delayed because the book was just so incredible, it left me in kind of a great book fog and I was at a loss for words. Now that I’ve had a bit of time, I will try and create coherent thoughts.
I loved the images that Timothy Findley created. From the opening image of a horse standing in the middle of the railroad tracks with her one hoof up, all the way to the end of the novel, Findley crafts some of the most powerful images in that I have come across in the war novel ge
Aug 10, 2012 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
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
Dec 13, 2014 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)
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Not yet."

This book, especially at the beginning and end, really hooked me. It's a book I'll be thinking about for a long time, I think. It's hard to say what I really think about this book without spoiling it, so I won't. So this review will probably be a little disjointed. Not really put together well.

I was in the Canadian military for a brief period over a decade ago, and - not that only a soldier would be able to empathize with this - I can easily recall that "Am I doing what I'm supposed to
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 4½ stars originally but the more I thought about the book and its story while writing my Dutch review for
This was a good book, but not a great book for me. It was choppy and disjointed and really lost me at times. When the story was actually in the war zone, it was outstanding. There was a scene when they are sprayed with gas which I will always remember. This book is about 19 year old Robert Ross, a sensitive soul, whether it be to his treasured sister, to his fellow soldiers or to the horses he valued. The author does a fine job of showing the ravages of war, especially in the last 40 pages or so ...more
Aug 05, 2016 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.
Jan 07, 2016 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.
Sotiris Karaiskos
For the First World War few good novels have been written, of which this book despite its quality seems to be one of the least known and popular. This I think I can understand it to some extent, the book is certainly not easy, it takes effort to appreciate it and it is characterized by a first half that is rather sluggish and most of it is not done to attract the reader's interest .

Of course, this change in the second half when our hero, a sensitive 19-year-old Canadian, is involved in combat op
Paul Manytravels
The Wars by Timothy Findley tells the story of Robert Ross, an young man from a wealthy family who serves in WW I. The book covers that entire period of Ross's life from when he first decided to join through all of his experiences in the conflict and beyond. I this, it manages to capture everything about the war experience from the level of one individual.
It is not an easy read emotionally. The descriptions are accurate and graphic, and the reader must keep reminding himself that the book is fi
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Reading 1001: The Wars by Timothy Findley 1 5 Nov 29, 2019 08:42PM  
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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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