Competition published on November 4, 2016.
The natural history of the Western Front during the First World War by the author of MEADOWLAND, winner of the 2015 Wainwright Prize.
Beautifully written and interspersed with poetry of the First World War, Where Poppies Blow is the story of the British soldiers of the Great War and their relationship with the animals and plants around them. This relationship was of profound importance, because it goes a long way to explaining why they fought, and how they found the will to go on. And in that relationship is found some of the highest, noblest aspirations of humanity in times of war.
At the most basic level, animals and birds provided interest to fill the blank hours in the trenches and billets; bird-watching, for instance, was probably the most popular single hobby among officers. But perhaps more importantly, the ability of nature to endure, despite the bullets and blood, gave men a psychological, spiritual, even religious uplift. Animals and plants were also reminders of home. Aside from bird-watching, they went fishing in village ponds and in flooded shell holes (for eels), they went bird nesting, they hunted foxes with hounds, they shot pheasants for the pot, and they planted flower gardens in the trenches and vegetable gardens in their billets.
Extracts from contemporaneous letters, field notes and diaries provide an incredibly vivid picture of life on the Western Front. They provide fascinating detail about the huge variety of birds spotted, the staggering number of horses killed in battle, the wide range of pets kept by soldiers including a pair of baby Orang-Utans, as well as the horrors of trying to live in trenches overrun with rats, lice, flies and mosquitoes.
Where Poppies Blow is about the British soldier’s relationship with nature, and it is also about the human condition in wartime – the soldiers’ hopes, loves and need to express the finer side of being human through caring for animals and plants.
We have a copy of Where Poppies Blow by John Lewis-Stempel to give away – for your chance to win simply fill in the form below:
The Competition is closed.
About the author
John Lewis-Stempel is an award-winning writer predominantly known for his books on nature and history. He lives in Herefordshire, on the very edge of England before it runs into Wales, and within a stone’s throw (with a decent gust of wind) from where his family farmed in the 1300s.
His many books include the bestselling Six Weeks, about British frontline officers in the First World War, The War Behind The Wire and Meadowland, winner of the Thwaites Wainwright Prize for nature writing. His books have been published in languages as diverse as Brazilian Portuguese and Japanese, are available on all continents apart from Antarctica, and have sold more than a million copies. He has two degrees in history, writes books under the pen name Jon E. Lewis, is married with two children.
Follow John on Twitter @JLewisStempel
Where Poppies Blow by John Lewis-Stempel, published on 3 November, 2016 by W&N, in hardback at £20
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