Tuesday Book Review: “Notes from the Trenches: A Musician’s Journey Through World War I”

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notes from the trenches gary foster

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Notes From the Trenches

by Gary H. Foster

ISBN: 9781478792741

Synopsis*:

The Terror and Triumph of WWI in a Soldier’s Own Words…

The Foster family of Wisconsin were vibrant and happy in the early years of the 20th century. Like many families in the area, they were descended from German immigrants and had a healthy appetite for hard work and beer. Barbara Foster, widowed early in life, created a loving home for her children Leo, Ottilia, Mary, and Kunigunda. They were all musicians, forming their own orchestra and playing in regional and local venues. But despite Woodrow Wilson’s promises, America found itself drawn into the Great War overseas, and Leo Foster, bugler for the Wisconsin National Guard, was sent to the front lines. Nearly a century later, this book reconstructs Leo’s World War I experience from letters, newspaper clippings, and photographs from Leo’s footlocker. Nothing compares to the immediacy of the war experience in a soldier’s own words. Notes from the Trenches follows Leo from stateside training to the horror of the Meuse-Argonne offensive and his battle-weary return home in May of 1919. Full of wit, good humor, and honesty, these letters provide a fascinating window into the War to End All Wars, with insightful organization and context from Leo’s grandson, Gary Foster.

 * courtesy of Amazon.com

Featured Review

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of “Notes From the Trenches” by Gary H. Foster.]


4 out of 4 stars


Get an in-depth look into World War I from a soldier’s perspective. Leo Foster’s eagerness, pride, humor, bravery and sense of patriotism will surprise you in Notes from the Trenches by Gary H. Foster. His life continues to inspire his lineage with many following in his footsteps.

A young musician of German ancestry from Wisconsin joins the 32nd division famously known as ‘Les Terribles’. His new journey takes him across the states, then to France and finally to Germany in a bid to fight for his country even if this means that he loses his life in the process.

Told by Leo Foster’s grandson Gary H. Foster who served in the Navy, Notes from the Trenches reveals the content of many letters that Leo wrote to his family. His mother and sisters seem to have been quite close to him. Even in the heat of war, Leo good-heartedly continues to taunt his sisters in his notes. His concern for Kuni, Mary, Tillie and his mother, Barbara shows in every letter. It is clear that he was more concerned over their welfare more than his own as he made every effort to reassure and encourage them.

Perhaps the most impressive bit of Foster’s book is that it reveals the true picture of war, the sacrifice that families have to endure both for the soldiers in the front lines and the family members left behind. Leo’s mother, Barbara, must have been a strong woman to have endured all she went through and still hold on and hope for the return of her son. The destructive nature of war is shown especially in the later letters written by Leo.

The letters are obviously in the first person which adds to the storyline’s authenticity. Leo’s humor as he constantly refers to his weight and love for ‘eats’ adds a unique comical strand which helps to lighten the weight of the account. His mention of love interests heightened the book’s appeal and gave me a glimpse of his personality.

The book is very well researched. Every letter is carefully placed in chronological order and life after World War I is also covered.

Ultimately, Notes from the Trenches fosters the spirit of patriotism and touches on an incredibly important part of history that shaped whole nations. It also reveals a history that is too powerful to be forgotten and a people’s resilience and bravery that should always be valued. I rate Gary H. Foster’s account 4 out of 4 stars.

– reviewed by EmunahAn on OnlineBookClub.org

Other Reviews

One is amazed that despite the raging horrors of war and the …

“Notes from the Trenches” is a fascinating glimpse back in time to World War I. It is fair to say that this war has been largely overshadowed by World War II and the conflicts that have since followed. As a result, bookstores have an abundance of material on those subjects, but only a handful on the War to End All Wars. This book puts World War I in the hands of the reader as written by bugler Leo Foster in his letters home to his mother Barbara and his sisters. The colloquialisms, daily routines, and wide-eyed wonder of a young man experiencing the Old World as new in the midst of conflict are fresh on the page. The author allows Leo to speak in his own words, while guiding the reader through the broader historical events of the conflict. This has the effect of giving the reader the chance to experience the war much the same way Leo Foster’s mother and sisters would have through his letters. Readers will find Leo to be brash, humorous, and possessing a brand of “gee whiz!” American optimism that seems to have largely faded from American civic life. One is amazed that despite the raging horrors of war and the normal hardships of life in that era, there was a strong attitude of pressing forward and making the best of whatever happened in life. Certainly something to glean from this book, as well as a newfound appreciation for the sacrifices of so many of that generation that our modern world continues to reap the benefits of. I highly recommend this book, and as a reader who had (I’m embarrassed to admit) a very limited knowledge of World War I, I think this is an incredible way to be introduced to the story of that conflict and the sacrifices of so many true heroes like Leo Foster.

– reviewed by Brady Christian on Amazon

A Gripping Documentation of Life on the Battlefield from a WWI Soldier Who Fought For Freedom

Rarely is there any documentation of the thoughts in real time from the men in the field who fought during WWI. Without technology or the sheer opportunity and willpower to document such emotions as they occurred, the personal trials of the fighting men in the “war to end all wars” seems lost to the ages. Then comes along Notes From The Trenches, a gripping book that recounts the actual perspectives of Leo W. Foster, a bugler in the 121st Machine Gun Battalion, 32nd Division in WWI.

The book captures in vivid detail the sacrifices, wonder, elation, disappointments, tensions and an overpowering desire to win at all costs as documented by a young man who voluntarily leaves the comforts of his Wisconsin home to fight “over there” in the battlefields of France, documented through the actual letters written by Foster and sent to America. More than 90 letters, kept for decades in the soldier’s stored footlocker, are showcased in their raw and largely unedited form, all organized in chronological order with added color and perspectives from the author about the events that led to American victory in Europe.

Notes from the Trenches is a solid read, and it’s an intriguing glimpse into the real-life battles of a war fought a century ago.

– reviewed by Mark Foster on Amazon

 


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