Mired in the Great Depression, the United States teeters on the brink of revolution. And the nation holds its collective breath as a rail-riding hobo from Portland leads 20,000 World War I veterans on a desperate quest for justice to the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
This timely epic evokes the historical novels of Jeff Sharra as it sweeps across three decades with eight Americans from different backgrounds who survive the fighting in France and come together again, fourteen years later, to determine the fate of a country threatened by communism and fascism.
We follow these men and women from the Boxer Rebellion in China to the Plain of West Point, from the persecution of conscientious objectors in the Midwest to the horrors of the Marne in France, and from the Hoovervilles of the heartland to the pitiful encampment in the bowels of the District of Columbia.
Here is an alarming portrayal of the political intrigue and government betrayal that ignited the only violent conflict between two American armies under the same flag.
What I Thought:
I was asked to review Glen Craney’s historical novel, The Yanks Are Starving, some time ago and I’ll admit I struggled a little on first picking it up. However, being a firm believer in books coming to you at the right time, I let it sit and when I picked it up again recently, it was easy to fly through.
Even though I would call myself a fan of Historical fiction and historical events, I had no idea about the Bonus Army as described in this book. After serving their country in World War 1, regular Army veterans were promised a salary bonus, to be paid in 1945. As the Depression begins to bite, these men begin realising that most of them will be dead before the bonus is paid, and demand it sooner. In a move that proves that veterans of foreign wars were treated with the same disdain then that they are now, this was refused, setting the scene for a war between the establishment and the veterans.
Glen Craney’s novel cleverly interweaves real-life and composite characters to get into the belly of the Bonus Army, following them from their pre-war lives, into the trenches of France and to the Hoovervilles of Washington in 1932. Whether real or composite, the characters are well-written and it’s clear that the author has done a huge amount of research.
Part of my degree course involved study of the Depression and the New Deal, but this period was not especially well-covered which is a real shame. A lot of the narrative surrounding the Depression is of hopelessness, but this episode proves that there were still people trying to take control of their lives and make demands on their Government. I guess it goes to prove that history is written by the winners and it’s no surprise that the US establishment would want to keep stories such as this out of History classrooms and textbooks!
The Yanks Are Starving is a mighty tome, dealing as it does with such a large chunk of time and a large number of individual characters but it is always clearly signposted and it’s easy to follow through the story of each main character and their interactions with each other as they approach the eventual climax of the novel in the heart of the US capital.
Many people take a dim view of history and dismiss it as irrelevant to today but, looking at today’s news, there are very many episodes in history such as this – particularly in the US – that can and should serve as valuable lessons to us all!
The Yanks Are Starving is published by Brigid’s Fire Press and, at the time of writing, is only 99p in ebook from Amazon.
Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.