Tuesday, January 31, 2006

An Innocent Soldier by Josef Holub

The year is 1800. Napoleon has just called a draft for all able bodied men ages 17 and older to form a grand army and march on Russia. A sixteen-year-old orphan farm hand is taken to the draft by his wealthy farmer and substituted for the farmers 17-year-old son. The bewildered young man soon finds himself with a new name, a uniform and training. From the outset there is a sargeant who harasses and bullies him. Due to his familiarity with horses he is soon assigned to be a servant to a young lieutenant no older than himself. For the pair this invasion becomes more survival from the illnesses and lack of food, water, clothing and other supplies that plague the too big, undersupplied army. It doesn't take long for the pair to become close friends though one is wellborn and the other is poor. The lieutenant can use his influence to help the duo through some bad spots and Adam has skills as a thief and farmhand that go a long way towards helping them survive. These two friends witness all the horrors of war from those who died from grievous wounds to those who steal from those in need for their own bounty to abused horses, people and animals dead of starvation, freezing, cholera. Adam is very practical about his situation and the story is even funny in places. These two teenagers are quite likeable. If you know history you know how badly Napoleon misjudged this invasion, if you don't this book is a good way to learn a little history. jdw 1/31/06

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