The poppies may be growing in far-off Flanders fields, but it is not the flowers that this
book wants us to remember. Young Texan Travis Lee Stanhope has volunteered for
combat duty with the Brits in the spring of 1916. He qualifies as a sharpshooter and is
assigned to the trenches in Flanders. Poetry reading and reciting Travis has many lessons
to learn here in that “war to end all wars.” In Patricia Anthony's “Flanders,” the author is
quick to illustrate that, indeed, war is hell through a series of compelling letters between
Travis and his younger brother Bobby, still in Texas. Travis Lee's idealism is quickly
shattered as the full impact of the trenches confront him: the killing, the mud and rain, the
hopelessness (and senselessness), the insanity of such an endeavor takes its horrifying toll.
While the narrative is played out through these letters, don't be mislead. This is a
powerfully written story that never bogs down, no matter how rain-soaked (and sometimes
tear-soaked) the setting becomes. Paralleling the tragedy of the Great War, Anthony's
book illustrates a true rite of passage, one that most readers would prefer to do without.
This report prepared by Bill Hobbs