Drift by Leo Brent RobillardDrift by Leo Brent Robillard
ISBN: 9780888013859
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Paardeberg, South Africa is far from Canada. In 1899, two prairie boys throw themselves into the conflict of the Second Boer War looking for soemthign their small-town lives cannot prvide. What they find amid the broken bodies and the rubble is that war is hell. With breathtaking grace, Leo Brent Robillard delivers an unstoppable story.

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Advanced Praise

Leo Brent Robillard knows that questions raised by the Boer War are strikingly relevant to our times: are wars waged for political or ethical reasons; —to secure diamond and gold mines or to end slavery, to protect oil shipments or to bring democracy? In prose as crisp and bracing as the Great Karoo itself, Drift examines what motivates us to volunteer to fight a war that is not our own, whether it’s idealism, escapism, or cynicism, and shows what happens when any ism comes gunsight to gunsight with reality. Robillard gets it, and he gets it right.

Wayne Grady, author of Breakfast at the Exit Cafe

So often it takes fiction to reveal the truths about our own history. Leo Brent ­Robillard’s Drift puts a human face on the plight of a soldier of the Second Boer War, a young man with A Company of the Royal Winnipeg ­Rifles—the “Little Green Devils”—fighting in a faraway land. Armed with his ­Lee-Enfield rifle, the Canadian warrior encounters new technology in the form of superior guns and ­observation ­balloons. He struggles with both the individuality of his fellow fighters, and the sudden and ­incomprehensible anonymity of their deaths. He learns the true cost of victory.

Rita Donovan, author of As for the Canadians


[Robillard's] prose is economical without being sparse....a style somewhat reminiscent of Hemingway, and it suits his subject well.

Winnipeg Free Press

Robillard's powers of description are poetic, while his action is tight, forceful, compelling....The result is a poignant story of war's reality and what it does to people.

Brockville Recorder and Times

Drift is a beautifully written story.

Arlene Smith, Indigo

Book Club Questions
  1. Comment on the different meanings of the title.
  2. How and why have attitudes regarding war changed over the last century?
  3. Media and media coverage of war have also evolved since the Anglo-Boer War.  How might these developments play a role in our changing attitudes?
  4. Despite all that has changed, the Anglo-Boer War and modern conflicts still have much in common.  For instance, what parallels can be drawn between Canada’s current role in Afghanistan?
  5. A key conflict in the novel revolves around a disgraceful incident Will witnesses between Canadian troops and an African boy.  This occurrence is loosely based upon an event that transpired while Canadian soldiers were serving in Somalia during the 1990s.  How is it that amidst the atrocities of war, we can still be outraged by certain forms of violence while accepting others as necessary?  Have these lines shifted in the last one hundred years?
  6. While war is often waged in the name of righteousness and justice – or human rights today – these philosophical concepts are, more often than not, thinly veiled dressing for slightly more base economic imperatives.  During the Anglo-Boer War, it was access to diamonds and other resources in South Africa.  What modern conflicts fit this description?  Why do we feel the need to “dress up” these economic pursuits?
  7. When referring to Africa, Campbell says, “There are European footprints all over this continent.  But the wind erases them eventually.”  What does this mean?  Is it true?  Where else do we see this in history?
  8.  All the characters in the novel find themselves at the mercy of history.  Some attempt to carve out their own destinies within the confines of history, some ignore history, and some throw their hands up in defeat.  Comment specifically on Will, Robert, Claire, Mason and Campbell.  What about minor characters such as Siphokazi or Hilde?
  9. Discuss the development of Will’s relationship with Claire.  How is their “love” believable?
  10.  What, if anything, does Will learn on this journey?  How is he different in the end?