I reviewed this fascinating novel set in 1917 against a backdrop of the Great War, on behalf of whisperingstories
By the Hands of Men
Book One: The Old World
Author – Roy M Griffis
Publisher – CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Pages – 262
Release Date – 4th November 2013
Available in eBook and paperback formats
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
Lieutenant Robert Fitzgerald has managed to retain his sanity, his humanity, and his honor during the hell of WWI’s trench warfare. Charlotte Braninov fled the shifting storm of the impending Russian Revolution for the less-threatening world of field camp medicine, serving as a nurse in the most hopeless of fronts. Their friendship creates a sanctuary both could cling to in the most desperate of times.
Historical fiction about life, loss, and love, By the Hands of Men explores the power that lies within each of us to harm – or to heal – all those we touch.
‘By the Hands of Men’ is an historical novel by American author, Roy M Griffis and set in a base hospital behind the allied lines during the battle of Passchendaele in 1917. We were plunged immediately into the chaos of war as we met Charlotte Braninov, a young Russian nurse who has experience and skills well beyond her years.
At the beginning, I was engrossed in the situation in which Charlotte and her cohort found themselves prior to her meeting a British officer, Lieutenant Robert Fitzgerald. With the introduction of Fitzgerald at the frontline field hospital, I wondered if the author was going down the road of a run-of-the-mill romance. Thankfully this did not happen and whilst the theme was the bitter sweet aspects of wartime relationship dynamics, there was an awful lot more going on than two people falling in love. In particular, some of the descriptive passages really tugged at the heartstrings as we witnessed tragic and senseless loss of life and its aftermath.
There was a good balance between description and dialogue as an attraction developed between Charlotte and Fitzgerald in the early part of the novel. Also, Griffis created a striking contrast between the brutality of war and the tenderness of those who ministered to the injured, with the backdrop providing a plethora of scenes designed to bring out the strength of the cast.
Charlotte was a strong character and her foils gave good support to the tale with a twist of tension between her and Alice, an upper class English nurse. I found Alice to be rather stereotypical, however Matron was a three-dimensional character and the cameo of Madame provided gentle daily respite amid the horror.
The Great War provided a wealth of real life events around which the author has woven his story. Griffis was well-informed regarding processes, procedures and conditions faced by both troops and clinicians during this time. He also imparted a lot of situational information for those readers who have little knowledge of this period of history.
As usual, I am being a little pedantic regarding the use of American-English; in this case, ‘walkway built over the railroad tracks’; Charlotte was educated in England therefore it was unlikely she would use such a phrase, however by-and-large the author’s use of British-English was fairly sound.
(NB: I would suggest, ‘footbridge over the railway line’).
The writing style was competent but I found the pace a little uneven towards the final third of the book; nonetheless this was a good read.
I would recommend this work if you are a fan of romance with a sociohistorical backdrop. I hope to have the opportunity to follow the adventures of Robert Fitzgerald and Charlotte Bravinov et al in the sequel and award ‘By the Hands of Men’ four stars.
Reviewed by Julie
I was born in Texas City, TX, the son of a career Air Force meteorologist. Attended a variety of schools at all of the hot spots of the nation, such as Abilene, Texas and Bellevue, Nebraska. Sent to my grandparent’s house in Tucson, Arizona when things were tough at home. I was pretty damn lost, as my grandparents were largely strangers to me. My older brother, a more taciturn type, refused to discuss what was going on. Fortunately, like so many kids before me, I was rescued by literature. Or, at least, by fiction.
In a tiny used bookstore that was just one block up from a dirt road, I discovered that some good soul had unloaded his entire collection of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “John Carter of Mars” series in Ballantine Paperback. Moved by some impulse, I spent my RC Cola money on the first book, “A Princess of Mars.” I think what struck me was how these books were possessed of magic: they were able to transport me far from this dusty land of relatives who I didn’t know and relatives pretended not to know me to another dusty land of adventure, heroism, nobility, and even love. It was the first magic I’d encountered that wasn’t a patent fraud, and when I closed the stiff paperback with the lurid images on the cover, I decided it was the kind of magic I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to mastering. And, thus, I was saved.
Since then, I’ve never looked back. I’ve written poems, short stories (twice runner-up in the Playboy college fiction contest), plays (winning some regional awards back East and a collegiate Historical Play-writing Award), and screenplays. I’m a member of the WGAw, with one unproduced screenplay sold to Fox Television. Along the way, I’ve done the usual starving artist jobs. Been a janitor, a waiter, a clerk in a bookstore. I was the 61st Aviation Rescue Swimmer in the Coast Guard (all that Tarzan reading wasn’t wasted). I’m also not a bad cook, come to think of it. Currently, I’m a husband, father, and cat-owner. I’m an avid bicyclist and former EMT.
I live in Southern California with my lovely wife. My friends call me “Griff,” my parents call me “Roy,” and my college-age son calls me “Dadman.” It’s a good life.