One of my favorite pastimes other than reading and writing fanfics is to read the reviews of fanfics. I like to know what people are thinking. Today I read what is possibly the largest review ever as it wasn't a review at all, but a history lesson in Canada's role in WWII. This review was found in Strawberry Lip Gloss's "Sand Through the Hourglass."

I'm not complaining about it because it was an anon. review, and it wasn't for one of my works. I have found it very interesting though. In many ways, I think it is a helpful resource. Then in others I wonder if it is overkill. I'm going to be positive and say it's just helpful information. I was just wondering what everyone thinks and I was also wondering what people do and don't look for in a review. I guess this is my topic question of the weekend.

Here is a copy of the review:

Ha! After considerable bickering with a recalcitrant server, I am finally able to post a review.

Well, let me start by saying you've done a very good job so far. You have reasonably approximated the style of L.M. Montgomery, which is, as somebody pointed out, isn't easy. This is more true in the flow of the story than in terms of the plot and dialogue. The dialogue occassionally sounds more 21st century American than 20th century Canadian, and perticularly Maritime Canadian. And some points seem out of keeping with your primary characters young age - in that era, in that part of the world, a 13-year-old would have been under more supervision.

One key difficulty I see you having is understanding what was happening in Canada during the early war. First, when Canada declared war on Germany on September 10th, 1939, mobilization was already 10 days in. The first convoys carrying Canadian soldiers left for Britain in fall of '39 and continued from there. While the 'Phony War' of fall '39 and January-March of '40 saw no combat on the ground in Europe, Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons were already active in that theatre, and Royal Canadian Navy warships were escorting massive convoys from Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia to ports in Britain.

By the time your story begins, the Phony War was over, the Low Countries were occupied, France lay prostrate before the advancing German armies, and the great evacuation of British, French and allied soldiers had taken place. At the same time, as a last attempt to stave off French defeat, British and Canadian Army units, specifically the Canadian 1st Infantry Division, were landed in the Brittany/Normandy area of France. Even as these units travelled by trains towards their deployment areas, France surrendered to Germany. All of a sudden these same units were forced to move back the way they'd come, and abandon all their heavy weapons, lest they be captured by German units moving forward to occupy France. Indeed, their capture might have been assured except for the efforts of the Canadian ambassador to France, General Georges Vanier, who forced the harbour authorities to allow the soldiers to board British and Canadian transports and warships hastily sent to recover the force. In the process, the destroyer HMCS (His/Her Majesty's Canadian Ship) Fraser, a destroyer, was severely damaged in a collision (and I believe she sank, but offhand I cannot remember).
So, by mid-June of 1940 Britain and Canada, supported by the rest of the British Empire and Commonwealth, stood alone against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy (just prior to the French surrender, the Italians declared war and invaded France). In Britain, now faced with the real threat of an invasion, only two army divisions were ready and equipped to meet such an invasion. One was British, and the other was the Canadian 2nd Infantry Division (which was to take such severe losses at Dieppe, two years later.
In Canada, the military, overlooked for so long during the depression, was rapidly being rebuilt. At shipyards on both coasts and on the Great Lakes (the latter necessitating a special agreement with the US, since both nations are, to this day, restricted by a treaty that severely limits the number of warships they can operate on the lakes - the Rush/Bagot treaty of 1815, signed in the aftermath of the last war between Canada and the United States) a new breed of escort, called a corvette, was being constructed. The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan saw pilots trained in Canada for service in the RAF, RCAF, RAAF, and RNZAF (including many American volunteers) in large and small airports and aerodromes, as well as other facilities such as schools and universities across the country. Rationing was taking place, as priority went to supporting the British in the face of the Blitz and unrestricted submarine attacks on Allied shipping. By 1940, the war was impacting everywhere. Coastal areas such as PEI also had to deal with the concern about possible German submarine attacks on shipping, or commando type attacks or air raids on shore (the latter never took place, but sub attacks in the Gulf of St Lawrence (PEI's north shore) and German insertions of spies and other personnel all took place). Also having an impact was the need to deal with these possibilities, realistic or not.
As the war continued, major Canadian actions took place:
-in Hong Kong, where 20+ Canadian troops aided in its defence. Less than half of these came home.
-in the Atlantic, where the RCN grew to become the third largest navy in the world, with the major responsibility for convoys moving from North America to Britain. Over 100,0 Canadians served in the RCN.
-in Britain, where the RCAF contributed to the defense of Britain, and later was part of the Allied bombing campaign against Germany. The RCAF totalled some 250,0 to 300,0 men, with almost as many Canadians serving in the RAF. Canada's top fighter pilot was George "Buzz" Beurling, with 29 kills.
-in Sicily and Italy. In Sicily, while the British and Americans had the easy routes along the coasts, the Canadians (one division)fought across the centre of the island. In Italy, Canada deployed a full army Corps (1st Corps) which served there until the end of 1944, when they joined the Canadian 1st Army in northwest Europe.
-the English Channel and the Murmansk run, where Canadian destroyers fought fierce surface battles with the Kriegsmarine, and defended convoys to Russia against sub, surface and air attack.
-in northwest Europe. After taking part in Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, 1st Army was responsible for liberating the vital channel ports before pushing the Germans out of the Netherlands and ultimately taking the primary German naval base at Wilhelmshaven. This involved the RCAF,the RCN during the invasion, and the 1st Army which ultimately included 3 infantry divisions (1st, 2nd, 3rd (the D-Day division) and 2 armoured divisions (4th, 5th), plus the Polish Armoured Division, various British and American divisions, and assorted Dutch, French, Belgian and Czech units.
-in the Pacific, were naval units operated, and ground and air forces participated in the re-taking of Alaskan Islands captured earlier by the Japanese. With the war ending in Europe, Canada prepared to send major naval, air and ground forces to the Pacific, but this didn't happen before Japan surrendered.

All told, of a national population of some 11,0,0, over a million men and women, over 10 percent of the nations population, served in the Canadian military.

It is important to note too that in 1942, Canada introduced conscription, after a bitter election which saw the anti-conscription francophone Quebec population massively vote against it, but every other province and territory vote for it. This was to have a significant impact on Canada's future, as it helped deepen a rift between English and French Canadians.
But those conscripted between 1942 and early 1944 were used only for home defense. But in 1944, the Zombies, as the conscripts were known, began to be deployed to Europe to replace mounting casualties in that theatre.

Canada also was a major contributor of manufactured goods, food, raw materials, vehicles, and munitions, out of all proportion to our size.

Okay, I've gone on long enough. For any other help or info feel free to e-mail me. I want to emphasize that any historical critique of your story, and my posting this info, should not be taken as real criticism. You mentioned at one point being from Texas, and the reality is, most Americans don't know a lot about Canada and its history. On top of that, most American 'documentaries' and such on the Second World War utterly ignore Canada's contribution to victory, and the price payed by Canadians. So it is very refreshing to see the efforts you've put into writing this.

It's been around 12 years since I last read the Anne series, so I'm having to get back up to speed, but I encourage you to keep up the good work. You're doing a great job.

Feel free to e-mail me if I can provide any historical or geographical assistance. Canada's a big country compared to a little place like Texas :).

Good show.
8 Responses
  1. geeruby Says:

    It's helpful info, but I think people forget this is all in fun. It's a fanfic, not a thesis.

  2. iffie21 Says:

    that was one crazy long review, I agree with Ruby. If it isn't highly inaccurate then forget about it. It is not like people are saying Hilter was the Us President or something.

  3. Una Meredith Says:

    I didn't read the entire thing; too long and not much time, but the last statement seems condescending to me. The US is a big country, too. It's not as big as Canada as far as actual land mass, but it is a very big and very diverse country with many cultural differences among regions. It does irk me when writers portray the US as a world power, say, during the time of WWI, because we were not a World Power at that time, and attitudes were different.

  4. My, that's practically a dissertation! :) Despite the last comment, I think that the reviewer meant to be helpful rather than overly critical or snide.

  5. Una Meredith Says:

    Yes, so do I. I just think it is unfair for people outside the US to automatically assume that people in the US are ignorant of other countries, although many people are. Also, people outside the US do not know as much about us as they think they do and watching our television shows is not a good way to learn about us. Sorry for the soapbox, but I am taking a course on cultural studies and I am coming to see that none of us understand other cultures as much as we would like to think that we do.

  6. DylanLeeLo Says:

    Wow whoever wrote that comment must care a lot about that fan fic...About the stereotyping of the good ol US of A, I agree with Una. It is unfair and biased. As a canadian I know that we are in your shadow, and the comparisons of our loonie to your dollar in the paper every morning are shameful, so people naturally get a little envious. From what I gather of most people's views here is that they see your country as an older brother, we copy you and follow you every where in a desperate attempt to be cool, and at the same time jealous of all the attention your country gets. Yeah it's stupid and immature but you'd be surprised at some of the crazy things my canadian history teacher has said. It's true we do have american history and american literature classes in high school but like you said, you just have a bigger population, bigger guns and are a bigger power then canada is. The irony is that most canadians don't know a lot about canada either.

  7. DylanLeeLo Says:

    another thing is that most of this bitterness is coming from american-canadian stereotypes that are enforced in beer commercials of all places, seemingly harmless, yet totally influential. Sorry to get off on a rant and all, but I am in a weird mood. Kudos for our anonymous buddy for being so knowledgeable but I won't mind if any people writing wartime fics don't get too caught up in the historic aspects and I promise not to take it as a personal insult to my country and nationhood.

  8. Well, I imagine that we as citizens of the United States say a lot of condescending things about Canada from time to time. I don't ever appreciate condescension, but I'm trying to be less tempermental as I age, and try to see the good parts of the review. However, I do think that there is too much info there for an actual review.

    I know the world is full of stereotypes, and we all get tired of them from time to time. I get tired of seeing people from Arkansas and Oklahoma portrayed as either cowboys and ranchers or barefoot hillbillies with family trees that don't fork. Sometimes we just see something that sets us off and we want to rant. However, there is a place to rant, like here.