The English GI

By Jonathan Sandler and Brian Bicknell, adapted from Bernard Sandler’s autobiography
Publisher: Graphic Memoir
ISBN: 9798793377874

Ever so occasionally I’m sent a book that is a genuine surprise. This is one of those books. Using the 1995 autobiography of Bernard Sandler, Bernard’s grandson, Jonathan, has adapted the work, along with illustrator Brian Bicknell. Together they’ve created an extraordinary graphic novel about the extraordinary experiences of a very ordinary young man.

Back in 1939, Bernard Sandler is on a school trip to the USA. He’s just 17 years of age. When war breaks out he has no option but to stay put in New York, a considerable, insurmountable distance from his Yorkshire home. With no choice but to make the most of it, he has to find somewhere to live, and something to do in this strange new world.

By 194, with war still raging in Europe, he’s well and truly settled. He has part-time work, he’s completed high school, and he’s met a girl that he’s well and truly fallen for. And then Pearl Harbor happens. The USA is drawn into the war and Bernard finds himself drafted.

By the time he does get to return to Europe it’s not to his home but to the frontlines with the 26th Infantry as a GI.

It is a remarkable story, and one that’s difficult to fathom just a few decades later. But like many during the war, it was a question of making do and carrying on – what other choice was there?

Jonathan has done a grand job of editing his grandfather’s story to make it work in this medium, not least because of the personal nature of the tale. You’ll keep placing yourself in Bernard’s shoes and question how on Earth you would have coped in such a situation. It’s powerful stuff, and I’m glad I was given the opportunity to experience Bernard’s exceptional life for myself.

Pick up your copy here.

And if you liked that: Try Spit Three Times by Davide Riviati

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