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An Onlooker in France 1917-1919   By: (1878-1931)

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An Onlooker in France 1917-1919 by William Orpen is an extraordinary work that offers readers a unique and intimate glimpse into the realities of World War I. Through the eyes and words of a talented artist, we are transported to the war-ravaged landscapes of France during a crucial period in history.

Orpen's account is refreshingly honest and authentic, highlighting his role as an observer rather than a soldier directly involved in combat. This perspective allows him to capture the nuances of war from a fresh and unbiased standpoint, offering a valuable contribution to the body of literature on World War I.

One of the book's most remarkable aspects is Orpen's ability to seamlessly combine poignant illustrations with his written narrative. His skills as an artist shine through as he captures the haunting beauty of the French landscapes scarred by war. The inclusion of these extraordinary paintings greatly enhances the reader's understanding and emotional connection to the story.

Moreover, Orpen's writing style is both engaging and evocative. His vivid descriptions transport us to the frontlines, enabling us to witness the horrors of war firsthand. From the chilling silence of bombed-out villages to the ceaseless thunder of artillery, Orpen masterfully conveys the sheer brutality and devastation that was unleashed upon France during this period.

Another aspect that truly sets this book apart is Orpen's candidness in depicting the impact of war on the human condition. He frequently delves into the psychological toll it takes on soldiers, painting a complex portrait of the emotional struggles experienced by those caught in the midst of battle. By humanizing the war, Orpen compels readers to confront the harrowing reality of conflict and its profound consequences on individuals and society.

While this book primarily focuses on the war itself, Orpen also explores the transient moments of respite and semblances of normality that soldiers occasionally experienced. His anecdotes about interactions with locals and fellow soldiers add depth and texture to the narrative, revealing glimpses of hope and humanity in an otherwise brutal landscape.

An Onlooker in France 1917-1919 is an invaluable account that deserves a place among the classic works on World War I. Orpen's ability to skillfully blend art and prose offers readers a multi-dimensional and immersive experience. This book is a testament to the power of art and literature in preserving the memory of a defining moment in history, and it serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring human spirit amidst the horrors of war.

First Page:

[Transcriber's note: The original page references for the list of illustrations was 'facing page' therefore they have been changed in this text to match the page numbers in this file.]


[Illustration: I. Field Marshal Earl Haig of Bemersyde, O.M., K.T., etc. ]


1917 1919



Pictures and Text, Copyright 1921 by Sir William Orpen, K.B.E., R.A.

Printed in Great Britain by Richard Clay & Sons, Limited, Paris Garden, Stamford St., S.E. 1, and Bungay, Suffolk.

PREFACE (p. v)

This book must not be considered as a serious work on life in France behind the lines, it is merely an attempt to record some certain little incidents that occurred in my own life there.

The only thought I wish to convey is my sincere thanks for the wonderful opportunity that was given me to look on and see the fighting man, and to learn to revere and worship him that is the only serious thing... Continue reading book >>

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