The Stories – That Make You

In July 1942, Farley Mowat was an eager young infantryman bound for Europe and impatient for combat. This powerful, true account of the action he saw, fighting desperately to push the Nazis out of Italy, evokes the terrible reality of war with an honesty and clarity fiction can only imitate.

When my father told me and my brother’s war stories they were always humourous. I only experienced one story that was shocking and made me realize the horrible reality of his time at war.

The circumstances were of the bizarre, a massive pile-up on a major highway. My mother was very concerned. I was probably 10, maybe 12, regardless I was young, and this was very exciting. My mother got very angry with my father who was driving our car and not showing any concern for the wreck, only impatience at having our trip delayed.

As my mother got angrier and started taking her frustration out on my father, it seemed to me that he momentarily snapped. At least he snapped back in defence of his casual demeanour. “Listen”, he said. “When you see your close friends killed and they are lying right next to you, it changes how you feel about something happening that you have no connection to or control over.”

That was the moment I realized that he only told us the positive side of his experience. He told me many stories but he never got into the horrors.

The three books that he gave me before he passed away, including And No Birds Sang, were books that expounded on the reality of War.