This is one of Ben Elton’s serious books. I have read a number of Elton’s books and prefer his comedy to the serious writings. In that respect this book is as expected not one of his best. This is still an enjoyable read, but it doesn’t make it into the good book category.
The real problem with the book is that the story is so far fetched and unbelievable. Having a far fetched story line works in comedy, but detracts in such a serious book. Although the book does start with drama from the beginning the main character Kingsley, a “conscientious objector” doesn’t really get the sympathy he deserves until much later. Although I suspect this is intentional, it means that the start of the story is not as interesting as it might have been. In addition the start is just all too predictable.
As the story progresses it does get a lot better, and the book becomes a gripping read. Unfortunately still let down as I didn’t believe the story, it just kept nagging at the back of my mind that this couldn’t be true.
The saving grace for this book is the way that Elton describes the war and the experience of the trenches. Until now I’ve not really appreciated what the first world war was really like, with Elton’s screenplay for Black Adder goes forth being my only real insight into the whole thing (and as that is a comedy it doesn’t really count). The First Casualty gives a very graphic description of what life was like in the first world war, on both the horror of the war, and the feelings and suffering of the soldiers. It certainly appears that Elton has done his research and as a result this is a book that I will probably keep and read again.
A good insight into the first world war, but it just doesn’t make it as a serious novel for me.