Wednesday, May 01, 2019

World at War: The Good Son

The Good Son: A Story From the First World War Told In Miniature. Pierre-Jacques Ober. Illustrated by Jules Ober and Felicity Coonan. 2019. Candlewick Press. 104 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: About one hundred years ago, the whole world went to war. The war was supposed to last months. It lasted years.

Premise/plot: The Good Son is set in France during the first world war. Pierre is a French soldier. Pierre wanting to be a good son decided to go home and visit his mother for Christmas--without permission. It was just two days. But those two days may just cost him his life. For in being a good son, his being a good soldier was called into question. As he awaits his fate he writes a letter home to his mother.

My thoughts: Don't be fooled by the format of this one. It may look like a picture book--its shape and size--but if ideas carried weight this one would weigh a ton. It is impossible to judge a book like The Good Son.

On one hand, it's visually wonderful. It is told in miniature and stars VINTAGE TOY SOLDIERS. The book is illustrated with PHOTOGRAPHS. Artistically one can't help celebrating its mastery. I'd be surprised if this one didn't earn STARS and ACCLAIM by critics.

It isn't just the art. The story is technically brilliant as well. I'm currently reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. If anyone knows how to slip in philosophy and BIG IDEAS into a fictional story it's Hugo. Ober makes a good, strong effort in The Good Son. Does war have a point? Is there such a thing as a good or just war? Is all war evil? What is it all for? What price does war cost us as humans? As I mentioned earlier, if ideas have weight, this one would weigh several hundred pounds.

On the other hand, The Good Son makes Jude the Obscure look like a bright, cheery, pep-you-up read. Or perhaps compare it to ANIMAL FARM. For being just 104 pages in length it packs in enough sorrow and despair for one hundred books. This book is bleak, dismal, dark, depressing. It packs a philosophical punch or two. But is it a punch readers can withstand?

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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