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The French cannot forget the First World War; and they will not forget that America—an ocean away, with no stake in it—stepped in and turned the tide for the Allies. As Americans forgot what their own forebears did Over There, the French have become the keepers of that cache of American memory.
An eccentric, first person travelogue in the tradition of Tony Horwitz’s Confederates in the Attic, Back Over There is a fascinating trip through an important, but relatively underemphasized chapter of American history, as well as an exploration of human memory between generations.
Moving chronologically along the path of American WWI battles, Rubin takes us through vast cemeteries, abandoned trenches, trees still filled with bullets and shrapnel, lush farmland, skeleton towns bombed to the ground and never rebuilt, and mines illuminated with the graffiti of soldiers long dead. Rubin introduces us to the lively characters still occupying these places, for whom the bloody conflict is not the distant past but a history that is immediate and ever present.
Based on his wildly popular New York Times series exploring WWI American battle sites in Northern France and timed for the April 2017 centennial of America’s entrance into the war, Back Over There will be a journey through a place where American history lives on vividly and where the present and past have never quite separated.