Official Review: Where I've Been by Dan Heiser

Please use this forum to discuss historical fiction books. Common definitions define historical fiction as novels written at least 25-50 years after the book's setting.
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Official Review: Where I've Been by Dan Heiser

Post by Scerakor » 03 Jul 2017, 07:10

[Following is an official review of "Where I've Been" by Dan Heiser.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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The Great War. The war to end all wars. WWI. No matter how you name it, the beginning of the 20th century changed the world forever. Not only did men die by the tens of thousands during single battles, but the face of warfare changed forever. From the gentlemanly way of conducting war to heavy artillery, poison gas, and the atrocities of trench warfare, it would never be the same again. Where I've Been by Dan Heiser is a historical fiction that tosses the reader into the midst of one of humanity's darkest times.

This book follows Edward Poole, a resident of the village of Bourne (England), during World War One. Edward just turns eighteen and is headed to enlist as a pilot to fight for king and country in the war. As he shows up on his beloved horse, he is convinced to sign on as a member of the cavalry instead. Before he knows it, Edward finds himself in the trenches of France defending the city of Arras against the onslaught of the German army. You'll have to read the rest of this book to see how Edward fares during these hostile times, to see the relationships he builds, and the pains he suffers.

As a short historical fiction novel, Where I've Been holds up quite well in the eyes of this reader, who frequently delves into the pages of this time period. Dan Heiser has created a believable cast of characters that embark on adventure and hardship during The Great War. The author captures extremely well the sentiment on the home front, some of the sufferings on the front lines, and even touches on some of the facets of leadership. The book, despite its length, manages to touch on several different aspects of the war: the feeling of adventure at the beginning, excitement before a battle, the futility of the endeavor, and even the feeling of survivor's guilt despite having done your best. Very poignant interludes on the home front were particularly powerful as well, especially one that featured the "Order of the White Feather." I think what I liked the best about this book was that it touches on a trade that you rarely see featured in the annals of WWI literature: the cavalry. For the ground battle, the infantry is often the unit of choice for an author. I liked how Mr. Heiser took this opportunity to feature the relationship between a soldier and his horse throughout the novel.

Unfortunately for the author, in the context of this review, WWI is well covered throughout the pages of literature. While reading this novel, I couldn't help but think of the other great books of the era and what they brought to the pages that this book didn't. The issues that I have with Where I've Been stem less from what was written in the book and more from what is missing. The battle scenes in the book were relatively few and far between (one thing I usually "enjoy" in war literature), it only barely outlined the absolute atrociousness of the trenches, and it failed in conveying much of the terror these men felt on a daily basis. In fact, it seemed to almost trivialize a night before a battle, suggesting even that a unit could take off to a pub and a have a few drinks prior to the fight. As a standalone novel, without having been exposed to the myriads of books (like All Quiet on the Western Front ) and movies highlighting this time period, I likely wouldn't have noticed these minor outliers. But what I liked least about this book is that it didn't go deep enough into the topics of importance; the battle scenes, the injuries, the hardships, or the day-to-day life in the trenches were only tangentially mentioned.

Despite some of the criticisms above, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found the characters engaging, the scenery vibrant, and the plot following Edward Poole inherently realistic. For that reason, I have no problem giving this book 3 out of 4 stars. As an avid reader of war literature, I am forced to take away one measly star when comparing it with the currently available historical fiction dealing with WWI. That being said, I 100%, fully recommend this book to anyone who loves reading the genre and enjoys a short novel about The Great War. If you have no interest whatsoever in WWI or historical fiction, you can probably skip this one.

Where I've Been
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Post by greenstripedgiraffe » 14 Jul 2017, 10:38

Actually, I've read much more about WWII than about WWI, so I may enjoy this book. Thanks!
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Post by kandscreeley » 14 Jul 2017, 10:56

You know, I don't know THAT much about WWI either. I probably would enjoy the book. Like you, though, I think I would miss some of the battle scenes. Thanks for the review. I'll have to think about this one!
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Post by LadyClaire » 14 Jul 2017, 16:47

Going through your review gets me thinking about my uncle who died defending his country at age 18. I feel the book will help me learn something of my uncle. Thanks for the review, Dan.

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Post by raikyuu » 14 Jul 2017, 18:52

I could appreciate the book if it did bring something new to the table (which other books hadn't done yet). This is a helpful review.
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Post by Quirinius » 20 Jul 2017, 09:37

Never thought i could start reading WWI and WWII books, never had the nerves before of war. Thanks anyway for the preview.

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Post by Onyinyechukwu » 13 Aug 2017, 14:02

Beautiful review, I can't say I like war fiction. The instability that war brings makes me wonder why it has to be. All the same, I know very little about WWI, fiction might be a good place to start if I find the time.

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Post by KlareAllison » 27 Aug 2017, 19:45

I love historical narratives on armed conflicts. This book, from the review, seems capable of opening up new dimensions of WW1 to readers. The review is nicely writing, congrats!
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Post by Reuben 92 » 06 Sep 2017, 08:39

Thanks for your review! You clearly know a lot about the time period and this book seems like a decent addition to WWI literature, and its brevity is an attractive feature. Thanks again!
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