When you open the pages of this novel, be prepared! It will not be what you expect. In fact, it will exceed your expectations. What you will find is a blunt narrative from a tough, gritty soldier who tells things like they are, through his own biting, but touching sense of humor. And it is this sense of humor that helps him survive horrendous battles and dire circumstances and the loss of life. Tommy is real, loveable, dynamic, and the penultimate hero. I defy anyone who picks up this book not to fall in love with this man. And the best part, is that he is real. He is the author’s own father.
The story itself is factual and told with simplicity through the eyes of our Canadian soldiers. Tommy’s tale is revealed through letters he sends to his twin sister in Canada. Fun colloquialisms and humorous slang intersperse the dialogue and help to paint a realistic picture of Tommy’s resilient character.
Cudos to author Wendy Bertsch who was talented enough to honor and immortalize her father in such a brilliant manner. I cannot recommend this book enough. All Canadians should read it – men and women alike. Get the book. Get it now!
There have been few occasions when I have envied the ability of the author of the book I am reviewing — actual, green-eyed, spitting envy. Dodging Shells has effortlessly claimed top place in that group and has motivated me to try harder in my own writing. I freely admit I can offer no constructive criticism for improvement.
The first chapter, or letter, is brilliantly written; descriptive, graphic, honing the reader’s interest with consummate skill in the manner in which our scribe makes himself known to us; self-deprecating, wry, humorous, imbued with an independent spirit and possessor of all the human faults and virtues that the we expect in our literary heroes. With the background of wartime Italy and the allies’ dogged advance up the boot the author has truly captured the essence of those difficult times, and Canada’s contribution, of almost seventy years ago, with a realism and skill that makes for a absolute pearl of a read.
Robert Davidson, Author of The Tuzla Run
What a voice the main character is endowed with by this talented author. We’re taken through some awful military/war conditions with pure pleasure via the writing. An immense amount of research is artfully used to place us right there aboard ship and in the Sicilian war zone. In addition to stellar prose and dialogue, bits of winning humour keep us entertained. I was never once tempted to skim a section of this fine read. A real treat.
Tommy is a young Canadian soldier stationed in Italy during WW2, who writes to his twin sister of his experiences. His letters are both funny and poignant and give a genuine insight into what it must have been like to live through and survive very difficult times. He is a wonderful character, and I’d defy any reader not to be rooting for him by the end. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Wendy Bertsch is an engaging and entertaining author and I look forward to reading more from her.
You are beside Tommy as he tries to keep his sense of the ridiculous…Always hungry; always weary; under constant fire… He is the Canadian Soldier Everyman with the red patch. Highly recommended for the reader of war fiction or nonfiction. You won’t forget this soldier’s experiences.
Karen A. Charbonneau, Author of The Wolf’s Sun and The Devil Singing Small
There will probably never be a better war story than All Quiet on the Western Front, but Dodging Shells deserves to be on the same shelf. Ms. Bertsch has produced an extraordinary piece of work with this WWII tale told as a series of letters from a Canadian soldier to his twin sister. It’s a poignant, funny, honest and brilliant way to tell the story of the author’s father’s experiences as he and his Canadian comrades in arms fought their way from Sicily to northern Italy. Sometimes Corporal, sometimes Private Tommy Smith had a checkered military career fraught with chronic hunger, discomfort, disasters and constant danger which he candidly shares with sis. This isn’t just a war story, it’s a human story, and a world class piece of literature.
The author gives life to a period of time I know very little about–World War II, the brave 48th Canadian Highlanders “boots on the ground” fighting force. When I finished “Dodging Shells” I was in awe of these men.
Tommy’s tongue-in-cheek humor never, ever fails in this book, a book I would describe as profound and hilarious, first hand insight into what it was like to be on the ground, involved dead center in this war…Even when Tommy is being shot at, he never loses his sense of humor. The reader is right there with him on every page, running, marching, drenched, cold, hot and wounded. Even as he dodges exploding German shells, Tommy makes jokes…War is no fun, but humor can help you keep your sanity.
Tommy is an engaging, merry, witty man, a true “sympathetic protagonist” readers can easily fall a little in love with. He’s brave, reckless, and very human.
An all around great read.
RAL in the West