Synopses & Reviews
In this vivid and deeply moving memoir, novelist Robert Kotlowitz recounts his experiences as a teenaged infantryman in the Second World War. With a sharp, ironic eye, he brings every moment of his service to life, from the day he is drafted as an eighteen-year-old and thrown into basic training and maneuvers in Tennessee. Readers meet his commanding officers and fellow platoon members in all their quirky individuality, see the grimly foreboding drowning of fellow recruits in a swollen river, feel his excitement and anxiety alike as the young Francophile and Jew arrives in France to face the German army, and watch the drudgery and senselessness of military routine erode his youthful idealism. Most shatteringly, he describes the horrific day in which almost his entire platoon is slaughtered in an ill-advised assault on a German position, during which he must play dead for twelve hours in the midst of furious fire. An immensely moving work of witness and of muted, well-justified rage, Before Their Time joins the ranks of the great and sobering stories of World War II.
"I am moved and haunted by this subtle and arresting book by its relentless and unsparing honesty, by the poignant portrait of all those young men called to serve in World War II. And, most of all, by the palpable quality of fear that runs through its every page." David Halberstam
"[An] artiful, unforgettable book....this memoir does a superb job of sympathizing wiht all those puzzled boys, dead well before their time." Paul Fussell, Washington Post Book World
"Gripping...[Kotlowitz] is a novelist, with a novelist's eye for revelatory human behavior, and he brings his GIs to instant and tangible life." Boston Globe
"At once knifelike and warm...this taut memoir, so steely in its discipline, free of false notes and the smallest shred of predictability, won't be easy to forget." Wall Street Journal
"A remarkably honest, fear-drenched war memoir, plain, direct, and unforgettable." Alfred Kazin
in this memoir of his experiences as a teenage infantryman in the US Third Army during World War II, Kotlowitz brings to life the harrowing story of the massacre of his platoon in northeastern France, in which he by playing dead was the only one to survive. 208 pp. 15,000 print.