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Over the Top

Arthur Empey

Book Overview: 

Arthur Guy Empey was an American who responded to the sinking of the Lusitania by enlisting with the British Army to fight in France. His experiences in the trenches, including his ultimate wounding and convalescence, became this book. It was a major hit and helped the recruiting effort when America entered the Great War.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Orderly Sergeant the night previous.

Between 11.30 and noon he is dismissed, has his dinner, and is "on his own" for the remainder of the day, unless he has clicked for a digging or working party, and so it goes on from day to day, always "looping the loop" and looking forward to Peace and Blighty.

Sometimes, while engaged in a "cootie" hunt you think. Strange to say, but it is a fact, while Tommy is searching his shirt, serious thoughts come to him. Many a time, when performing this operation, I have tried to figure out the outcome of the war and what will happen to me.

My thoughts generally ran in this channel:

Will I emerge safely from the next attack? If I do, will I skin through the following one, and so on? While your mind is wandering into the future it is likely to be rudely brought to earth by a Tommy interrupting with, "What's good for rheumatism?"

Then you have something . . . Read More

Community Reviews

This book was written in 1917 and must be accepted and judged by the time in was written, taking into consideration the use of language of the time, the culture, societal norms and so on. Arthur Guy Empey was born in Ogden Utah in 1883 and he died in 1963 in Kansas. Apparently he was angered by t...more

This book was first published in 1917 and was a 'best seller' at the time. It should be recognised that Empey was replicating his experiences of war and not writing a fiction novel so he portrays his experiences bluntly, just as they were. The book is very fast-paced, exciting and to the point. I...more

Just to be clear, I purchased an original edition of this book in a second hand store. It's copyright is 1917 and it has the original cloth-bound cover. GoodReads does not currently have this edition listed and I, for some reason, am unable to add it.

Given the time in which the book was written a...more

We all need to understand that this book was written in 1917, and some of it is clearly propaganda aimed at swaying Americans opinion about US entry into the war. Much of it downplays the horror or war, with a stiff upper lip kind of mock nonchalance. However, the author did fight heroically.

Wha...more

For all the horror the narrator experiences as an American fighting for the British in World War I, he has a surprisingly sterile view of things. Author Empey spares no time to dissect his circumstances. He only lays out events as they happen in a blunt, journalistic fashion, detouring only to ma...more

I was quite disappointed to see that the Kindle reprint of this classic included all the photo captions from the original but none of the photos. With that said, it's easy to understand how this book became a runaway bestseller. It's well-written, skates carefully around the gory details of comba...more

A good read!

I was very disappointed to note that this reprint included all the captions from the book, but none of the photos themselves. With that said, it's easy to understand why this book became a runaway bestseller. Full of wry trench humor and personal stories of the author's experiences of...more

Similar to Rough Riders by Theodore Roosevelt, Over the Top was a great contemporary account of World War 1. It was a nice chance to hear about a real life account of the trenches and the attitude of a soldier while experiencing it. Over the Top was almost certainly a slightly conflated account,...more

This book provides a unique description of trench warfare during World War I. Was written by an American, who, angered by the American failure to respond to the sinking of the Lusitania, resigns from the New Jersey National Guard, travels to England, and enlists in the British Army. Serves in the...more

While there are certainly shades of propaganda running through Empey's account of his time in the British Army, as a call to arms to his fellow Americans, Over The Top is still not as in your face as Uncle Sam's (or Kitchener's) finger. To me, this memoir is a valuable recount of life in the tren...more

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