Three Day Road


354 pages
ISBN 0-14-301786-1
DDC C813'.54




Reviewed by Sidney Allinson

Sidney Allinson is Canadian news correspondent for Britain’s The Army
Quarterly and Defence. He is the author of The Bantams: The Untold Story
of World War I, Jeremy Kane, and Kruger’s Gold: A Novel of the
Anglo-Boer War.


World War I was a hideous and brutal conflict, fought in muddy trenches
in France and Belgium, that lasted four years and cost the lives of 20
million people, including 60,000 Canadian volunteers. Back in 1914–18,
they called it the “Great War,” not intending our modern connotation
of “really enjoyable,” but in the sense of “big, colossal.” Like
any large canvas, the war is best understood through the experiences of
individuals, such as those depicted in this fine novel.

The book’s title refers to the canoe journey a Cree-Ojibwa medicine
woman takes to bring home a gravely wounded Aboriginal veteran, Elijah
Whiskeyjack. The soldier and his experiences are inspired by a real-life
Ojibwa hero, Francis Pegahmagabow, a Canadian Army sniper in World War
I. The tale is almost two novels in one, as each chapter alternates
between the fortunes of the soldier in Flanders and the medicine woman
in Northern Ontario.

The author has obviously done his homework on both milieux, and catches
the cadence of speech of both First Nations people and typical soldiers
in the trenches. Boyden writes in a lyrical style that, while sincere,
sometimes veers far into artistic obscurity during long musings by the
medicine woman. However, he does convey insights in the distinct
philosophy of our Native people. He does equally well in portraying the
squalour, chaos, and sheer terror of trench warfare, while a few minor
military details he gets wrong do not undermine the power of his
narrative. His touching and authentic novel of the Great War is highly


Boyden, Joseph., “Three Day Road,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed September 23, 2023,