Dowswell, Paul: Eleven Eleven.
Bloomsbury, 2012, pp206, 6.99 [pound sterling]
978 1 4088 2623 2
All of the action in this book takes place within 12 hours from 2 a.m. onwards on 11 November 1918. There's a young German recruit, 16 years old, a youthful English tommy whose brother is sergeant of his platoon and an American student aged airman full of bravado and zeal. Machinations during these last hours of that war to end all wars throw these combatants together in the fundamental battle to survive. Their relationships within their alliance are essential to each other and are grudging at first but increasingly trusting. The context is that the peace agreement signed at 4 a.m. on that morning sought symbolism in setting a time of 11 on the 11th so ensuring that the bloody uselessness of that war would continue for another seven hours. During that time almost 3,000 more men came to grief, deaths even more symbolic of pointless waste!
This story is brutal, violent and staggeringly effective in portraying humanity in the face of terrifyingly chaotic destruction and death and the effect of years of ingrained, habitual, violence. In two previous books the author conveyed very real aspects of young lives caught up in Nazism in Germany in the 39-45 conflict. Here his focus is again on an easily overlooked segment of a well documented war and his powerful writing, plot, characters and atmospheric descriptions are astonishingly vivid.
This is a superb eye-opening book, it is especially welcome as an antidote to the proliferation of gung-ho militaristic adventure-story books for young adults of recent years.