Generals Die in Bed is Harrison's famous novel, often called “the great Canadian war novel.” An unnamed young Canadian soldier's account of warfare, both in the trenches and behind the lines, in France during the First World War. The novel is well-known for being most real and graphic in its description of warfare. Generals lie in bed, while soldiers die in the trenches, horrifically, unimaginably, infested with lice and surrounded by rats fattened on corpses. There are no rules in war. And there is certainly no glamour. Instead, the men inhabit a senseless world, trusting only the instinct to stay alive.
Based on his own experiences in the First World War, Charles Yale Harrison writes a stark and poignant story from the point of view of a young man sent to fight on the Western Front. In raw, powerful prose, the insanity of war is shown clearly as Harrison questions the meaning of heroism, of truth, and of good and evil.
The First World War may seem distant and irrelevant to many people today, but it is a timeless and important lesson. Seen through the eyes of the adolescent narrator, the experience of trench warfare takes on renewed vibrancy as readers identify with the plight of the youthful soldiers.
This is an excellent companion book that deserves to be read alongside All Quiet on the Western Front and A Farewell to Arms as what the New York Evening Standard called arguably "the best of the war books".