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Macdonald, Lyn

MACDONALD, Lyn

PERSONAL: Female; married.


ADDRESSES: Home—London, England. Agent—c/o Viking Publicity, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014


CAREER: Writer. Has also worked as a radio producer for the British Broadcasting Company.


AWARDS, HONORS: Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Award, 1987, for 1914.


WRITINGS:

Bordeaux and Aquitaine, Batsford (London, England), 1976.

They Called It Passchendaele: The Story of the ThirdBattle of Ypres and of the Men Who Fought in It, M. Joseph (London, England), 1978, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1989.

The Roses of No Man's Land, M. Joseph (London, England), 1980, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1989.

Somme, M. Joseph (London, England), 1983, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1989.

1914, M. Joseph (London, England), 1987, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1988.

1914-1918: Voices and Images of the Great War, Batsford (London, England), 1990.

1915: The Death of Innocence, Headline (London, England), 1993, H. Holt (New York, NY), 1995.

To the Last Man: Spring, 1918, Viking (New York, NY), 1998.

SIDELIGHTS: Author and historian Lyn Macdonald writes widely on the World War I. Her works, including They Called It Passchendaele: The Story of the Third Battle of Ypres and of the Men Who Fought in It and To the Last Man: Spring, 1918, are based on first-person accounts from survivors and eyewitnesses.


They Called It Passchendaele recounts the World War I battle that raged in Belgium during the summer and early autumn of 1917, and brings to light the conflict from the perspective of Canadian, Anzac, and British troops. A Contemporary Review critic remarked that Macdonald "presents a horrifying picture of the third battle of Ypres," and John Smyth, writing in Books and Bookmen, stated that "the book describes, with no holds barred, the more horrible side of life and death in what was just about the most ghastly campaign which has ever been fought in British history." Library Journal contributor George F. Scheck deemed They Called It Passchendaele "much more than just a war story."


More than two million British soldiers were wounded in World War I, according to an official estimate. In The Roses of No Man's Land Macdonald offers reports from nurses, physicians, and first-aid volunteers who tended to the wounded. Many of the British volunteers were young, leisure-class women who went looking for adventure but soon found themselves working round the clock to save lives. Wendy Kaminer, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called The Roses of No Man's Land "a remarkable collection of the wartime letters, journals, and reminiscences of nurses, doctors and their patients, framed wisely in an unobtrusive narrative of events."

Somme focuses on the historic battle that took place in northeastern France. In July 1916, British forces attacked entrenched German forces; five months later, they had advanced only several miles, at a cost of 150,000 lives and twice as many wounded. Somme "is excellent in describing the suffering of men and the horrors of fighting under the conditions of battle," observed a critic in Choice. According to Pheobe-Lou Adams in the Atlantic Monthly, the personal accounts in Macdonald's work "are painful, indeed almost unbearable." "Macdonald's method is eccentric," noted Washington Post Book World reviewer Reid Beddow. "She often seems to wander about the front with no clear purpose in mind. It is not immediately clear to us why we are plunged into such ghastly battle scenes." Beddow continued, "Though the terrain is the well-known one of trench and No Man's Land, we seem to spend a lot of time wallowing in mud and stink and death without knowing exactly how we got there, doubtless the sensation of the battle's participants—without the addition of their constant fear."


Macdonald followed Somme with 1914, a wartime history derived from recollections provided by British soldiers and civilians. P. L. De Rosa, writing in Choice, called 1914 "a skillful treatment of its subject." Further praise was accorded 1914-1918: Voices and Images of the Great War, "an intensely illuminating view of the war as seen from the perspective of the common soldiers," according to Booklist contributor Steve Weingartner. 1914-1918 consists of letters, photographs, newspaper articles, diary entries, interview transcripts, and advertisements from that period. "Because Macdonald has chosen the whole scope of the war for this volume, she is better able to convey a sense of the great changes it wrought in everything from the class system in Europe to the shape of the sonnet in England to drinking hours in London," wrote Bill Brown in the Washington Post Book World. "The great distinction between this book and other accounts of the Great War is Macdonald's technique: rather than tell, she shows, letting the images and vernacular of the period speak for themselves."


In 1915: The Death of Innocence Macdonald concentrates on the second year of the war, covering the battles at Neuve Chappelle and Loos, the second battle of Ypres, and the Gallipoli campaign. Though some critics faulted Macdonald for discussing primarily the actions of the British Army, most praised the work. The author's "vividly rendered history evokes pity and awe," remarked a critic in Publishers Weekly. Washington Post Book World reviewer Michael Kernan noted that Macdonald "presents the war almost exclusively through the eyes of those who fought it, letting the big picture emerge as it will."

The German Army's final offensive of World War I is the subject of To the Last Man. The work includes testimonies from both British and German soldiers who recount the Second Battle of the Somme, "the last gasp of an already defeated nation," according to Hew Stachan in the Times Literary Supplement. "Macdonald's uncompromising narrative brings the bloody dawn of the century into vivid, humane relief," wrote a critic in Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal contributor David M. Alperstein observed that this "study of personal survival explains how individuals endured terrible hardships and soldiered on."


BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Atlantic Monthly, January, 1984, Phoebe-Lou Adams, review of Somme, p. 100.

Booklist, March 1, 1990, Steve Weingartner, review of 1914-1918: Voices and Images of the Great War, p. 1260; December 1, 1994, Gilbert Taylor, review of 1915: The Death of Innocence, p. 652; November 15, 1999, Brad Hooper, review of To the Last Man: Spring, 1918, p. 598.

Books and Bookmen, March, 1979, John Smyth, review of They Called It Passchendaele: The Story of the Third Battle of Ypres and of the Men Who Fought in It, pp. 50-51.

Choice, January, 1984, review of Somme, p. 750; June, 1989, P. L. De Rosa, review of 1914, p. 1735.

Christian Science Monitor, March 2, 1984, Pamela Marsh, review of Somme, p. B1.

Contemporary Review, August, 1984, review of TheyCalled It Passchendaele, pp. 111-112; February, 2000, review of To the Last Man, p. 107.

Economist, February 14, 1981, review of The Roses ofNo Man's Land, p. 94; August 27, 1983, review of Somme, p. 68.

History Today, January, 1984, review of They Called ItPasschendaele, p. 53; March, 1985, Ian Beckett, review of Somme, p. 53; April, 1989, review of They Called It Passchendaele, p. 51.

Library Journal, April 15, 1984, George F. Scheck, review of They Called It Passchendaele, pp. 809-810; April 1, 1989, Bruce Hulse, review of 1914, p. 99; January, 1995, Edwin B. Burgess, 1915, p. 119; October 1, 1999, David M. Alperstein, review of To the Last Man, p. 110.

London Review of Books, February 2, 1989, Philip Williamson, review of 1914-1918, pp. 11-12.

New York Times Book Review, June 10, 1984, Wendy Kaminer, review of The Roses of No Man's Land, p. 25; May 14, 1995, Chris Patsilelis, review of 1915: The Death of Innocence.

Publishers Weekly, September 9, 1983, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Somme, p. 56; December 19, 1994, review of 1915, p. 42; November 1, 1999, review of To the Last Man, p. 65.

Times Literary Supplement, February 10, 1989, Patrick McCarthy, review of 1914-1918, pp. 133-134; December 11, 1998, Hew Strachan, review of To the Last Man, p. 7.

Virginia Quarterly Review, autumn, 1989, review of 1914, p. 117; summer, 1995, review of 1915, p. 82.

Washington Post Book World, December 18, 1983, Reid Beddow, review of Somme, pp. 8, 10; July 1, 1990, Bruce Brown, review of 1914-1918, pp. 4-5; January 22, 1995, Michael Kernan, review of 1915, p. 5.*

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