The Good Son: A Story from the First World War, Told in Miniature

Pierre-Jacques Ober, Jules Ober, and Felicity Coonan

2020 Winner

Book cover The Good Son

Judges' comments

Presenting one soldier’s experience of the Western Front in World War I, The Good Son borrows visual storytelling technique from the cinema. Using ‘toy’ figures in miniature settings the book offers the reader points of view both distant and intimate. Every scene is thoughtfully framed and illuminated, with variation between panorama and close-up. The words are few because few are needed.

The reader experiences the fate of a man who is both an individual and a tool of the nation-state. This is the story of a ‘deserter’, but it compels the reader to suspend his or her assent to that word’s usual meaning. By enabling the reader to see Pierre as both an individual (‘the son’, ‘the friend’) and as an abstraction (another soldier), the visual idiom of The Good Son gives emotional force to its questions: to whom are we responsible? What does it mean ‘to serve’? The Good Son makes Pierre intelligible both as a person — connected to family and to all of humanity — and as a tragic figuration of war between nations.

The Good Son stood out from all the other entries in that way that it combined innovative illustration with verbal economy to make a work of emotional power and moral intelligence accessible to all ages. 


Updated on 21 February 2024