Reviews — ANGELS OF BASTOGNE by Glenn Ivers (Liberia)

 


I think Angels of Bastogne: A Remembrance of World War II by Glenn Ivers is a terrific and unusual World War II story. Its drama and characters are, in my view, riveting. Ivers weaves a complex structure with third person observation and commentary, a history lesson, and a first person set of interactions and dialogue. The result is a completely engaging experience that teaches, provides human context, and puts the reader in the middle of the narrative.

  • Owen Shapiro, Professor Emeritus in Film, College of Visual and Performing Arts Syracuse University;
    Co-founder and Artistic Director, Syracuse International Film Festival;
    Co-founder and Emeritus President, International Filmmaking Academy, Bologna, Italy.

I normally don’t spend any time with historical fiction. Then, I read the first few pages of Angels of Bastogne and didn’t stop until 100 pages! The writing about life going on amid the horror of war is intriguing. The psychology of maintaining sanity amid insane events reminds me of the plot of M.A.S.H. People use humor to soften the pain and develop relationships to maintain a humane existence while embedded in inhumane acts.

Angels of Bastogne is an imaginative retelling of real events, based on the memoir of a young Army doctor during the 1944 Battle of the Bulge. Glenn Ivers creates memorable characters among the medical personnel, Belgian civilians, and American servicemen who were thrown together over a period of days and weeks critical to the outcome of the war. The plot is tightly focused although the time frame shifts between the World War II era and the return to Europe of aging veterans for reunions in the 1990s. Unlike many novels of World War II, Angels of Bastogne incorporates the experiences and perspectives of women as true participants rather than victims or bystanders.

  • Mary Moran, Professor of Anthropology and Africana, and Latin American Studies, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY.

Angels of Bastogne is a love story set in Bastogne, Belgium, during World War II. Like many wartime love stories it is shaped, in part, through the crucible of survival. Its key protagonists are American physician Jack Prior and two Belgian nurses, Renee Lemaire and Augusta Chiwy. This true story is one tributary of the enormous flow of events known as the Battle of the Bulge that have been captured in history books and the Band of Brothers television mini-series. Mr. Ivers weaves an up-close and personal story as remembered by Doctor Jack Prior from day-by-day accounts of the events surrounding the attacks on Bastogne, as well as latter times during a 50th anniversary trip that provides a denouement to the 1944 story lines he shared. The ultimate test of a story for me, is: “Do I care about the people in these stories as told to me by the author?” The answer is an unequivocal “yes.”

  • Paul Sully, Peace Corps/Jamaica country director, retired;
    Peace Corps Volunteer, Liberia;
    Volunteer, Red Cross Disaster Relief Services.

Angels of Bastogne is an exceptionally comprehensive telling of the conditions faced by a team of medical personnel in WWII. Although it deals with one battlefront over the course of only several days, it is an emotionally riveting account. The juxta-positioning of the timing in the story, wartime in the 1940s and fifty years after the battle at a reunion of the combatants, makes one realize that wartime experiences don’t end with an armistice. The raw passions of the soldiers of all ranks permeates their relationships among themselves and with the citizens of the beleaguered towns and villages where the battles take place. Given the current state of affairs in Europe in 2022, this book is a truthful rejoinder of how history is repeated, despite the pain and sorrow it triggers.  It left me both crying and shuddering.

Angels of Bastogne: A Remembrance of World War II
Glenn H. Ivers (Liberia 1974-1976)
Peace Corps Writers
February 2022
315 pages
$19.95 (paperback)

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  • Angels of Bastogne is a different book about World War II and the Battle of the Bulge. Based on the memoir of a young American doctor, it is unique, indeed modern, in capturing the viewpoint of the Belgian nurses who volunteered on his medical team. Angels of Bastogne is unflinching in its depiction of emergency medicine in a war zone, and the bloodshed and trauma that entails, while at the same time it is a great story of love and humanity amidst violence, death and destruction. This timely book holds a mirror up to the trials and tribulations we are living through today.

    Roger Parent
    Author, The Making of a Peace Corps Volunteer: From Maine to Thailand
    Peace Corps Volunteer, Thailand, Peace Corps Director, Haiti & Grenada
    Mayor, South Bend, Indiana 1980-87

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