Trevor S. Raymond is a teacher and librarian with the Peel Board of Education and editor of Canadian Holmes.
A novelization is a bizarre hybrid that dwells in a sort of literary limbo: someone takes a film or play script, adds descriptive paragraphs, maybe a bit of back story, perhaps an additional few incidents, and a “novel” is created. Such books appeal to admirers of the movie who want to relive the picture and perhaps learn a bit more about its characters. Although literary quality is often irrelevant, this companion book to Paul Gross’s admirable movie Passchendaele is generally well written and adheres mostly, if not completely, to the movie as we saw it. Trivial differences such as the means by which the nurse/heroine takes morphine are unimportant, but the circumstances in which her underage brother gets into the army, and how his enlistment affects the relationship between the nurse and the soldier at the centre of the tale, are much more dramatic in the film. On the other hand, the picture’s jarring climax involves our wounded protagonist staggering through the mud of the battlefield at Passchendaele carrying a cross on which that younger brother is fastened. In the movie this seemed more than a little over the top; the novelization makes a bit more sense of what is still a highly improbable incident.
There are photos from the movie, a short list of recommended further reading, and several very short appendices about the making of the picture. A small curiosity: two of these are identified in large type as being “by Paul Gross,” but the authorship of the book itself is unclear. The copyright page says only, “Novelization based on the screenplay by Paul Gross,” leading one to suspect that the author is anonymous. Surely, if Mr. Gross, an award-winning playwright and screenwriter, had penned the book, that would be stated boldly on the title page.