Book Review – The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend by Jerred Metz

book_angelofmonsBook Review
The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend by Jerred Metz
Reviewed by Melissa Dugan

Not long after the Battle of Mons at the outset of WWI, an inspiring legend emerged, telling an unbelievable tale of angels appearing and protecting British soldiers. According to witnesses, St. George and an army of angels swirled onto the scene in a giant cloud and descended upon the advancing German troops, saving the lives of a British Vickers machine-gun crew. This fantastic story is the subject of Jerred Metz’s first novel, a work of historical fiction titled The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend.

Metz chooses a unique format for his reimagining of an event both factual and mythical. The book, broken up into a series of short, titled sections, is written in a succinct style, with clipped sentences and frequent exchanges of dialogue that capture an atmosphere of uncertainty, fear, wonder, and hope. He populates his book with well-known historical figures, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and W.B. Yeats, as well as an array of fictional characters. Thoroughly researched and imagined, the book moves from the battlefield in Belgium to England and back again, relating the legend of the Angel of Mons through the eyes of not just one or even a small group of people, but through the experiences of a multitude at a critical and terrifying time in the world’s history.

The narrative’s different voices take up the tale at various points and are introduced by epigraphs drawn from sources consulted in Metz’s research. For example, Metz has dedicated Book 2 to Dr. Malcolm Leckie, a real person who was not only the chief medical officer for the company of soldiers reportedly protected by St. George, but also Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brother-in-law. Leckie appears as both a living and a dead man in the novel: Metz relates Leckie’s relationship with his fiancée Phyllis Campbell; his injury, capture, and eventual death in a German prisoner of war camp six days after the Battle of Mons; and his conversation with Doyle from beyond the grave on the night of his death, through the means of a spiritualist practicing automatic writing. The book is full of incidents such as Leckie’s story, in which real and imagined blur together. Through the chorus of disparate but connected voices reporting matter-of-factly on this miraculous moment of divine intercession, Metz’s retelling of the Angel of Mons legend effectively unites the mundane and the mystical.
The author of six books of poetry and three works of nonfiction, Jerred Metz lives in Columbia, SC with his wife Sarah Barker. He teaches writing at Strayer University.

—Melissa Dugan
Third-year MFA Candidate at the University of South Carolina

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