My Grandfather's Knife

Hidden Stories from the Second World War

by Joseph Pearson

On Sale: 04/12/2022

My Grandfather's Knife

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My Grandfather's Knife

Hidden Stories from the Second World War

by Joseph Pearson

On Sale: 04/12/2022


About the Book

Even the most ordinary of objects can tell a spectacular story

A knife, a diary, a recipe book, a stringed instrument and a cotton pouch. Each belonged to an individual who was in their twenties during the Second World War: a fresh-faced prairie boy, a melancholic youth, a capable cook, a musician wounded at the front and a survivor.

Over a cup of tea, try asking your friends which object they’d choose to represent their lives. The enthusiasm of their responses will give you an indication of how well objects anchor sprawling personal histories. Joseph Pearson, a Canadian historian and author, talked to elderly family members, friends, colleagues and acquaintances—people drawn from everyday life—and asked them the same question: Is there an object that tells your wartime story? In many cases, he asked the question in reverse: Could the wartime story of a deceased person be revealed through an object they once owned?

Through rigorous research and in engaging prose, Joseph Pearson illuminates the often-dark history of the twentieth century by bringing to life the stories of everyday objects in the hands of everyday people.

Critical Praise

"Absorbing stories of investigation." — Literary Review of Canada

“Joseph Pearson has discovered a unique and exciting way of telling history. It’s as if you have been transported back to another moment in time, attached to an object, at times a relatively simple object, found in one’s own family belongings. But the tantalizing stories these objects reveal place the reader right inside a critical period of history as the world risks destroying itself in a war that took seventy-five million lives.” — Peter Mansbridge, author of Off the Record and Extraordinary Canadians: Stories from the Heart of Our Nation

"Fascinating. Exclamation mark. This is usually an exaggerated claim. But in the case of Joseph Pearson’s My Grandfather’s Knife, it’s accurate. With the discipline of a material historian, the empathy of a novelist, and the inquiring mind of a detective, Pearson investigates five objects. Each has a connection to the Second World War. Each has a story. As is true of the best guides, Pearson transforms his fascination into ours." — David Macfarlane, author of The Danger Tree: Memory, War, and the Search for a Family's Past

My Grandfather’s Knife is that important and genuinely insightful work that comes along all too infrequently. Through his deft employment of artifacts as touchstones of history, Pearson links the past with the present in a most emotive and tactile fashion, which sweeps the reader down a harrowing yet sentimental path of war, history and fickleness of human memory.”
David O'Keefe, author of Seven Days in Hell: Canada's Battle for Normandy and the Rise of the Black Watch Snipers and One Day in August: The Untold Story Behind Canada's Tragedy at Dieppe

"Writers consider the voice of diary, letter, photograph, or recording the most direct path to documenting history. In My Grandfather's Knife, author Joseph Pearson trusts his power of observation and relentless research of wartime objects—a knife, a diary, a recipe book, an instrument, a pouch—giving them voice to reveal the owners' trauma, distraction, and survival from war. He finds truth and life lessons in inanimate things. This book will change the way we look at war artifacts." — Ted Barris, author of Dam Busters: Canadian Airmen and the Secret Raid Against Nazi Germany and The Great Escape: The Untold Story

"Extraordinary . . . History at its most sensitive and evocative. Pearson’s astonishing detective work has uncovered stories so poignant and original that they cannot fail to leave an indelible mark. A remarkable book that takes us to the very core of human experience." — Julia Boyd, author of Travellers in the Third Reich: The Rise of Fascism Through the Eyes of Everyday People

"I hugely enjoyed My Grandfather's Knife, which is both sophisticated and accessible, an engrossing and moving story of global entanglements that still resonate today. Pearson strips back each layer of the past with the forensic skill of the detective. He also writes extremely well." — Brendan Simms, Professor of History and International Relations at Cambridge and co-author of Hitler's American Gamble: Pearl Harbor and Germany's March to Global War

"Joseph Pearson has found an exceptional approach to narrate a time that has become increasingly difficult to write about. By looking at objects that shaped World War II, My Grandfather’s Knife uses an original, unideological angle to approach historical truth. Literary non-fiction at its best." — Norman Ohler, author of Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich


Product Details

  • ISBN: 9781443465922
  • ISBN 10: 1443465925
  • Imprint: HarperAvenue
  • On Sale: 04/12/2022
  • Pages: 320
  • List Price:34.99 CAD
  • BISAC1 : HISTORY / Military / World War II
  • BISAC2 : HISTORY / Military / Canada
  • BISAC3 : HISTORY / Europe / Germany

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