I am drawn to books set in the First World War and in particular books which look at what life was like for those left waiting at home or what happened to the military personnel when they came home. This book includes both these aspects. I was very vaguely aware that some men had masks made for them to cover facial injuries but didn’t really know much about that, so I was interested in finding out more about the work of the so-called ‘tin nose shop’.
About the book
INSPIRED BY ONE OF THE LAST GREAT UNTOLD STORIES OF WW1
1916. Young artist Sam Burke is spared death by firing squad on the battlefields of France and brought to a remote castle by the Irish Sea. At the ‘Tin Nose Shop’ he is tasked with creating intricate masks to hide the mutilated faces of his fellow soldiers from the Front. While he tries to come to terms with the death of his best friend and the promise he failed to keep, Sam and the disfigured soldiers struggle to return to their former lives and their loved ones.
A stirring and emotional tale based on the real-life story of the Tin Nose Shop.
The Tin Nose Shop is a hugely compelling novel looking at a little known aspect of the First World War. That war was maybe the first time that men were so terribly wounded because of the type of weapons used. Most people know about life in the trenches and the huge loss of life in WW1 which feature quite often in fiction. There’s perhaps not so much known about those who were physically or mentally damaged as a result of the fighting. As one of the characters comments, “… there are far worse things than being killed in war.”
Artist Sam Burke expected to be shot for cowardice but instead finds himself creating detailed metal masks for soldiers whose faces had been horribly disfigured in battle. He has his own demons to face, clearly has ‘shell shock’ or what we would call PTSD nowadays and when we read about his experiences, it’s hardly a surprise.
As well as following Sam in his work, we also read about his friend Ned’s wife Katie, struggling to cope with a new baby and a husband away fighting, not knowing if he is alive or dead. Then there’s Lily, who survived the sinking of the Lusitania and who has a connection to the Easter Rising in 1916. We also get to know some of the soldiers living in the castle, waiting for the masks that might enable them to go back to their loved ones. Were the masks to help the soldiers hide behind them or to hide the truth about war from others? We all to a certain extent have masks we hide behind. The author writes so well about grief, guilt and depression. That perhaps makes this sound like a rather dark book and while it’s true that many of the characters experience dark moments, it’s not a bleak book. Instead there are moments of light and hope.
Sam’s work involved using a photo of the injured soldier to create as realistic a mask as possible for the soldiers. This was inspired by the work of Francis Derwent Wood among others. The photo on the front cover, rather poignantly, is the great uncle of the book’s editor Cari Rosen. You can read a really interesting article about how this came about here: A Lost Soldier Gets a Place on the Cover
The Tin Nose Shop is a powerful and moving testament to the horrors of war, the lies we tell other people out of love and the resilience of the human spirit. It’s beautifully written, impeccably researched historical fiction, one of my books of the year.
My thanks to Cari and Olivia at Legend Press for sending me a copy of this book for review and
for having me as part of the blogtour. The Tin Nose Shop is available from all the usual
book retailers in ppaerback, ebook and audiobook formats.
About the Author
Don J. Snyder was born and raised in America and is the author of ten novels and non-fiction books and wrote the movie Fallen Angel that starred Gary Sinise and Joely Richardson. He now lives in Scotland where he established the world’s only caddie training school for soldiers, to try to help restore servicemen from around the world who are suffering from PTSD.