Jim Murphy writes historical fiction that reads like a story, without ever being fictionalized. Out of all the muddle of history, he pulls out a story complete with suspense, fascinating characters, and plot twists that would be hard to believe if they weren’t completely true.
In Truce, Murphy tackles a little piece of a big story – the first World War. A note mentions that he originally intended to write more thoroughly about the war, but stuck to this one aspect for various reasons. His initial research shows in the way he manages to paint a picture of what led up to the war as well as its early days. He succinctly provides context for his story without letting it get overwhelmed by the larger story, describing the beginnings of trench warfare (a tidbit that was new to me) as well as what happened after the truce, and why it was never repeated.
The story of the truce is heartbreaking but also inspiring in the way it reveals the potential for good in humanity. The photographs chosen are a perfect complement to Murphy’s story – official photos show life in the trenches and the faces of soldiers, while blurrier, unofficial photos document the truce itself. Since the truces where completely unauthorized, the only photos are amateur and not as crisp, which hardly matters once you see the faces of enemies briefly at peace.
On a side note, the story made me think of Kate Seredy’s The Singing Tree (the sequel to The Good Master) which was one of my early introductions to WWI and mentions, if I remember correctly, a Christmas truce.
Source: public library