Poppy Field is an illustrated work of fiction by the famous Michael Morpurgo celebrating the significance of the poppy for a French family across four generations. It is a moving story of love and loss, and how the poppy became such an important part of the lives of this small family, a long time before John McCrae’s poem brought the flower to the world’s attention.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
– In Flanders Fields by John McCrae
I really liked the way Morpurgo’s historical fiction was intertwined with McCrae’s own story. In the book, the narrator’s great-grandmother retrieves a scrapped draft of a poem from a mourning soldier, and with his permission takes it home to her family as she is so moved by its profoundness. The family frames the poem, and it becomes a part of their own personal history, a talking point for generations.
The story itself is short, more a gesture of remembrance than anything else. Just as much weight is given to the long afterword, which is written by The Royal British Legion about the history of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance. I never realised that the idea of it being used in this way began in America, and was eventually brought to England by the French Anna Guérin. She persuaded the British Legion to have a poppy appeal in 1921 to raise money for soldiers and their families in need of support. These days the poppy is worn to honour all soldiers and all lives affected by war.
It wasn’t necessarily my favourite read, but each purchase donates £1 to The Royal British Legion, so it is worth picking up a copy if you are even a little bit curious.
Have you read Michael Morpurgo’s Poppy Field? What were your thoughts on it?