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Carpe Librum

Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.


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Historical Novel Society

Review: Silent Night the Remarkable Christmas Truce of 1914 by Stanley Weintraub

The WWI Christmas truce is a historical phenomena that has sadly begun to fall from general knowledge. Prior to the heavy losses of the Somme and decades of animosity that would result between German and British forces, the unofficial Christmas truce in 1914 demonstrated that few ordinary men were, at that time, interested in killing each other.

I have read several novelized versions of the truce, which really did a better job of painting a picture of what it was like to experience this unique ceasefire and holiday celebration. While I learned a few factual tidbits from this book, I was disappointed in the confusing, disjointed method of narration.

Rather than telling one cohesive story, the author chose to collect short testimonies of the days surrounding Christmas 1914. The lack of organization and inclusion of fictional portrayals of the truce made the narration difficult to follow and frustratingly repetitious.

The final chapter holds a rambling tangent on how the world may have been different had those involved in the Christmas truce "stuck to their guns" and refused to fight further. Had WWI ended then and there, the author wonders, would the US be a modern world power, would the Holocaust have happened? I don't know, but I thought that this chapter made unusual and unnecessary statements about the supposed future we could have had.

This topic is a valuable one to visit as we sit comfortably in our warm homes next to beautiful Christmas trees. The contrast between my own setting and the men I was reading about struggling in mud and cold was stark, and I enjoyed this reminder that leads to thankfulness during the Christmas season. Unfortunately, I wish this had been better written and organized.


12/12 page 1     "Peace is harder to make than war."
12/13 page 11     "Our enemy thinks of war, and nothing else, whilst we must mix it up with plum puddings."
12/13 page 32     "This is not a war. It is the ending of the world."
12/13 page 119     "Perhaps a football match, after which both sides went home, might be better as a solution."