Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fiction: Soldier of the Horse by Robert W. Mackay

Most historians agree, the First Great War was one of the most horrible conflicts in history, coming as it did at a time when new technologies -- in the forms of modern arms and chemical warfare -- were being introduced to battlefields still entrenched in the tradition of hand-to-hand combat. Some of the stories and art that came out of World War I were truly awful and thousands of young men suffered unthinkably.

In his first novel, Soldier of the Horse (Touchwood), former lawyer and navyman Robert W. Mackay explores the struggles on the Western Front through the eyes of Tom Macrae, a young Canadian soldier intent on just keeping his feet under him in France during the War.

In 1914 20-year-old Tom is studying law in Winnipeg when he is caught in a scandal that leaves him in extreme dilemma. In the end, he must choose between incarceration -- and, with it, professional ruin -- or service to his country in France. Tom chooses France.

Serving with Lord Strathcona’s Horse in the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, Tom discovers that war really is hell. Before long he knows two things: if he gets out of this alive, it’ll be due to luck and the cooperation and support of his constant companion; his horse, Toby.
In the instant before he slept, an image of Toby came to mind. His horse had been nervous and unsettled in the morning, just before Tom had spotted the enemy. If they had been a hundred yards closer to the Germans before seeing them, he, Simpson, and René would be bloating corpses, bled out on the Picardy grass. Next time he’d pay more attention to what Toby had to say.
Soldier of the Horse is an engaging first novel. What new writer MacKay lacks in finesse he makes up for with interesting material, a strong feeling for his story and some really terrific research. ◊

Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat somewhere in the North Pacific.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home