#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER
Winner of the 2018 JW Dafoe Book Prize
Longlisted for British Columbia's National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction 2018
Runner-up for the 2018 Templer Medal Book Prize
Finalist for the 2018 Ottawa Book Awards
A bold new telling of the defining battle of the Great War, and how it came to signify and solidify Canada’s national identity
Why does Vimy matter? How did a four-day battle at the midpoint of the Great War, a clash that had little strategic impact on the larger Allied war effort, become elevated to a national symbol of Canadian identity? Tim Cook, Canada’s foremost military historian and a Charles Taylor Prize winner, examines the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the way the memory of it has evolved over 100 years. The operation that began April 9, 1917, was the first time the four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought together. More than 10,000 Canadian soldiers were killed or injured over four days—twice the casualty rate of the Dieppe Raid in August 1942. The Corps’ victory solidified its reputation among allies and opponents as an elite fighting force. In the wars’ aftermath, Vimy was chosen as the site for the country’s strikingly beautiful monument to mark Canadian sacrifice and service. Over time, the legend of Vimy took on new meaning, with some calling it the “birth of the nation.”
The remarkable story of Vimy is a layered skein of facts, myths, wishful thinking, and conflicting narratives. Award-winning writer Tim Cook explores why the battle continues to resonate with Canadians a century later. He has uncovered fresh material and photographs from official archives and private collections across Canada and from around the world.
On the 100th anniversary of the event, and as Canada celebrates 150 years as a country, Vimy is a fitting tribute to those who fought the country’s defining battle. It is also a stirring account of Canadian identity and memory, told by a masterful storyteller.
Cook, whose Shock Troops won the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction, insightfully examines the 1917 battle of Vimy Ridge and evolving perceptions of it as Canadians prepare to commemorate its 100th anniversary. Four Canadian divisions fought at Vimy, and after four days, the Canadians succeeded where other Allied forces had failed, taking the strategic ridge from the occupying German Sixth Army, albeit at the cost of nearly 3,600 Canadian lives. It was a battle that shaped the still-forming Canadian identity as Canada evolved from colony to dominion to sovereign nation, and the battle has sometimes been described as the birth of a nation. Although Cook sees that description as myth, and one that has been used by some politicians to promote their own agendas, he writes that it is one of Canada s most enduring narratives. He analyzes the ways that subsequent generations have commemorated Vimy: some made grand speeches and iconic memorials, but others, disenchanted with war, saw the battle as a terrible waste of human life. Covering a century in fewer than 500 pages, Cook s account is necessarily highly compressed, but he effectively conveys a complex topic in a few well-chosen words, showing how Vimy came to hold a place in the Canadian consciousness that no other battle does.