Enemies share similar perspectives of war, but with an interesting twist.
Vivid memories of the World War I trenches flooded Jurgen Stern as he glanced at drawings found in an Ottawa hotel in 1968. Some of the scenes were from the battlefields where he fought long ago. Stern traced the owner of the drawings to a former Canadian soldier, Brian MacLennan, now like Stern, an old grandfather.
They fought against each other in the same battles, yet had not met. But one of the drawings compelled Stern to track down MacLennan and solve a 50-year-old mystery that had caused the German to hold on to a postcard size portrait sketched on the back of a map that he took from Canadian soldier. The rendering was identical to one in MacLennan's portfolio.
Enemies follows both men as teenagers who matured quickly in their first minutes of combat. Through them, author Richard Whitten Barnes brings alive the fear, sounds, smells, and horrors of trench warfare. The reader experiences the emotional and physical strains on the young soldiers as they watch friends die and become maimed in horrific ways. They both pine for a special girl back home as they try to sleep in water clogged craters. Through these up close and personal experiences, which are written in a well-balanced narrative, the reader has a realistic view of the “War to end all Wars” from the perspective of privates and junior NCOs.
Through all this is an intricately woven plot that comes to light as the two old veterans meet for the first time and discuss the drawings. They quickly form a friendship that takes the story to a surprising and heartwarming climax.
I recommend this fast-paced book.
MWSA Reviewer: Joe Epley
It is November 11, 1968, fifty years to the day since the armistice of the Great War.. The seventy year old German diplomat Jurgen Stern is in Ottawa, Canada on a special assignment. He rescues a portfolio mistakenly left behind in his hotel lobby by a man near his own age. Inside are drawings that are obviously from a soldier’s perspective of WW1. One of the sketches is so intriguing he is compelled to find this man and learn the truth about it.
The story reverts back to 1916 when Brian MacLennan, a farm boy from northern Ontario joins the Canadian Expeditionary Force. At the same time, young Jurgen Stern has been conscripted by the Imperial German Army. Their experiences in that brutal war are followed until they become entangled in a way that will take fifty years to unravel. The two men face the consequences of those events a half century in the past and must put them right.