The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney
Set at the beginning of the twentieth century, A Long Long Way is the story of Willie Dunne, the son of the Dublin policeman who enlists in the British Army and fights in the First World War. Like all the other young men of his time, he sets out full of optimism and bravado and discovers nothing but senseless carnage:
"When they came into their trench he felt small enough. The biggest thing there was the roaring of Death and the smallest thing was a man. Bombs not so far off distressed the earth of Belgium, disgorged great heaps of it, and did everything except kill him immediately as he half expected them to do.
He was shivering like a Wicklow sheepdog in a snowy yard, though the weather was officially 'clement'.
The first layer of clothing was his jacket, the second his shirt, the third his long-Johns, the fourth his share of lice, the fifth his share of fear."
Willie's decision to fight for the British Crown places him on the wrong side of history for by 1916 nationalists in Dublin are staging the Easter Rising. Returning home from the nightmare of the trenches, he is spat at by children in the street.
Always hopeful, always striving to do his best, Willie is an innocent in a world of limitless horror. Beautifully narrated in a voice of colloquial beauty, his story is one of heartbreak and there is no happy ending for him