(Review) Behind The Forgotten Front: A WWII Novel by Barbara Hawkins
Publisher: Barbara Hawkins.
Genre: Historical fiction, World War II, Burma, India, China, Japan.
Pages: 309 in ebook format, 318 in paperback format.
Source: ebook provided for free from Barbara Hawkins in exchange for a review.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.
e-book: ISBN 978-0-9915984-2-7 (309 pages)
Paperback: ISBN 978-0-9915984-1-0 (318 pages)
It’s 1942 and Harry Flynn enlists to fight in the war expecting to find the thrill of danger and honor of military service. He leaves behind the love of his life to journey into a world of tigers, elephants and Himalayan Mountains. Instead of a fighting position, Harry is sent to the Forgotten Front in the Indian subcontinent as an ordinary supply officer. There, General Joseph ‘Vinegar Joe’ Stilwell is constructing a ‘road to nowhere’ through Japanese-occupied Burma. The general will do anything to get the road built.
In this exotic world with Naga headhunters, opium-smoking Kachin tribesmen, and marauders who scorn both life and death, Harry forges unlikely friendships. He’s forced to obey orders that challenge his principles and is torn between being true to himself or ‘no man at all.’ Eventually, not willing to let Uncle Sam needlessly condemn the road crew to death, he rebels.
He tries to sabotage the road’s progress where an Afro-American construction regiment is losing a man a mile due to disease and crumbling mountain slopes. Then a commanding officer spots his unconventional skills. Immediately he’s transferred to America’s first guerrilla-supported unit: Merrill’s Marauders and later the Mars Task Force. Here, he must entrust his life to others. During a time when boys were forced to come of age on the battlefield, Harry must find what makes his life worth living or die.
The lessons learned in World War II apply to all wars, where men walk away carrying unspeakable memories and lives that ‘could have been’ haunt those that lived. Behind the Forgotten Front brings them all back to life and shows that history is about facts driven by passions and sometimes the mistakes of real people.
The war in the Pacific during World War II is of strong interest to me. I've read several books on the European Front during WWII, but only a few on the Pacific Front. Behind The Forgotten Front is the first book I've read in regards to the China-Burma-India Theater of World War II. In reading about World War II from all angles of the war, it becomes clear that the entire vast world was at war.
My reasons for giving Behind The Forgotten Front 5 stars for excellent.
- The voice in the novel is Harry Flynn. He has a special girl back at home named Ruthie. The portrayal of Harry is realistic. Every part of his humanity is expressed in the story. From his thoughts and feelings, to his physical maladies. He is in essence the American GI. An All-American, saucy, independent, "no one is going to take me down" kind of guy. His special girl back at home is the source of his dreams and hopes. She is his escape during the dark days of war.
- It's been remarked by other reviewers that the language is too strong, coarse. The reality of war is that men and women are not using their best and proper language. This is not important. Food, water, dry socks, and ammunition is essential. In order to give reality to the people who took part in combat, realistic language matters.
- The environment of vegetation, animals, geography of the land, and the people who live in this area of Asia was engrossing.
- There are several battle scenes realistically depicted. They are graphic and adrenaline pumping. I believe this is one of the hardest things to write. Only a person who has been in combat understands what it is like. Hawkins captured as real as can be accomplished in a battle scene.
- Lastly, Hawkins towards the end of the story begins to sort through the affects of war on the men. What kind of civilian men will they be like? Will their families recognize them? These are questions all men and women wrestle with after they come home from war.
Author page @ Amazon
Barbara Hawkins started writing a pseudo-memoir about her time spent in Guatemala during the 1970’s-1980’s civil war. It was too close to her heart, so she had to switch to something she wanted to tell a story about but also had a worthwhile message. Her father had always wanted to write a book about the time he’d spent in World War II but died before he could reach that goal. So she thought she’d give it a try.
She knew he was stationed in Sri Lanka, but she didn't find much to write about there. So she gravitated to what she knew best, engineering and jungles. The story of the Afro-American construction regiment building Stilwell’s Road grabbed her attention and who could not be mesmerized by American’s first guerrilla supported units: Merrill’s Marauders and the Mars Task Force? Half-way through the book her sister found her dad’s diary from the War. He was actually in the Mars Task Force. The scene with Lt. Jack Knight was taken from his diary and the ending was from a conversation she had with her dad just before he died. Having given a promise to keep his WWII missions a secret for fifty years, it was the only time her father spoke of the War.
Ms. Hawkins holds BS degrees from the University of Minnesota where she studied Botany and Mathematics. She taught mathematics and science in High School until she realized she hated being a disciplinarian. From there she traveled to jungles in Latin America collecting plant specimens for several universities. She also has a MS in Civil Engineering. For the last twenty-five-years she has worked as a professional engineer. Her hobbies vary from cooking and yoga to bicycling and adventure travel.
For more information visit Barbara Hawkins’ website.