Author: Frederick L. Coxen and Frederick G. Coxen
Publisher: Create Space
Release Date: August, 2012 (approximately)
Book Source: Provided by author in manuscript form
Category: History, Memoirs
Style: Powerful commentary, disturbing violence
|Royal Field Artillery testing new phones 1909|
Source: Rick Coxen http://bit.ly/MDLT9o
Synopsis from GoodReads:Frederick L. Coxen’s debut is a fascinating, visceral journey into the hell of war, the hearts of the men engaging in battle, and the search for closure for those left in its wake. Nearly one hundred years after the BEF’s initial engagement, Captain Coxen’s grandson was given his grandfather’s journal—and a letter he wrote in 1945 detailing the promise that was made but never kept. With these two items in hand, his grandson begins a quest: to find the families of the fallen men and make good on the promise left so long unfinished. Interspersing sections of the grandfather’s journal with key historical background the author transcends the reader beyond the historical depiction of the War, transporting them into the trenches through the experiences of one man who survived while millions of men perished. The Author goes on to describe the grandson's journey as he attempts to track down the families of the deceased in order to close the circle so long left open. The book delivers a surprise conclusion fitting for such a remarkable journey. . . . more
Background:Have I mentioned I'm a history buff? When Rick Coxen posted the comment "Isn't anyone interested in World War I history?" on a Book Blog forum, I had to respond. How could I ignore such a plea? I cannot say how glad I did.
Rick asked me to read his soon-to-be-published book about his grandfather's experience nearly one hundred years ago as an artilleryman and an officer in the Royal Artillery of the United Kingdom.
In the course of Rick's research and the writing of this book, he was featured on "The Story", a radio feature often aired on National Public Radio and American Public Media. This podcast is available here and deeply moving.
The Book:I opened this manuscript expecting a novel constructed around the framework of Captain (then artilleryman) Coxen. However, I found the actual journal entries, and they are more powerful than any novelist could fictionalize.
In addition to the transcription of his grandfather's journals, Rick Coxen provides us with commentary about the battles, the war, some of the weapons Captain Coxen refers to, and his own experiences researching both the war and his grandfather's mates. Because of this, and the fact that he had to clarify or guess at some of the entries, he originally thought to present it as historical fiction. However, this is truly a memoir and a powerful one, not only of his grandfather's experiences but his own in uncovering a lost and forgotten past.
I gently lifted the journal from the box and held it in my hands. For a brief time I just started at it, reveling in the moment. I'll never forget the emotional sequence that followed. At first I was overcome by an exhilaration comparable to one might expect when uncovering a treasure chest or embarking upon an adventurous journey. This elation became intermingled with awe for the piece of history I was holding. However, these sentiments were soon overshadowed by the riveting realization that I was holding my GRANDFATHER'S journal; a journal written astutely in his own fluent, cursive hand, almost one-hundred years ago. . . . By unraveling the poignantly historical thread of my grandfather's war years through the examination of his personal relics, I was able to sculpt together a more complete replica of the remarkabley complex man he was. I could not have anticipated that further excavation into the box contents would have such a dramatic effect on the next few years of my life.
The Great Promise opens a window onto the battlefield with a realism which conventional history books struggle to attain. Through Coxen, one glimpses the lives of the regular soldiers caught up in the fields of Flanders: their cocksure expectations and the shattering of them, the deprivations they suffered, the futility of their actions, their superhuman accomplishments and their gut-wrenching failures.
This is a soldier's journal, blunt, with no punches pulled. . . rather, I suspect he censored a great deal. However, the truths he allowed to escape his pen are graphic and disturbing. At times only the knowledge that this memoir is published by his grandson gives the reader hope. One marvels, as he did often, that Frederick Coxen managed to survive to tell these tales.
|Source: Wikipedia Commons http://bit.ly/NNX97K|
Rick Coxen provides excellent back story on the war, as well as commentary on his own search for his grandfather's trench mates. Unfortunately, like the war, few definitive answers are reached, but Rick's greater understanding of and connection to his grandfather makes the journey one worth taking.
I found the writings of this gentleman compelling, thought-provoking and heartbreaking. The greatest pay-off comes in the words of Frederick G. Coxen himself, penned some thirty years after the period in this journal, when Europe and the world were again caught up in a war to end all wars.
Throughout the years I have had a great many dreams or mild nightmares fighting that war all over again, and have so often thought, "Was it worth it?"I cannot complete the quote with any justice. You'll have to read his letter in its entirety yourself when the book comes out.
Bottom line: This is not a historian's book or a novelist's book. One cannot call it brilliantly executed. However, it is a good book and one people should read, discuss, and share. They need to keep it on their shelves to be reminded of the horrors of war, the futility of sending millions of men to their deaths, and the up-close-and-personal we too often forget when analyzing battle strategies and politics and who assassinated whom.
Editor's Note: I will divide into two installments my interview with Rick about this multifaceted book. I hope you will return for the first next Wednesday. You won't regret it. I promise.
Author Interview Part One
Author Interview Part Two
Author Interview Part Three
Author Interview Part Four
Editor's Note: This book review was updated on August 16, 2012, after the retail release of book.
FTC disclaimer: An electronic copy of this book was provided to me by the author or their agent with the understanding I would provide a fair and honest review. I receive no other compensation for this content.