The Tin Nose Shop by Don J Snyder – a story of War, of emotion, and underneath the mask

The Tin Nose Shop by Don J Snyder

To say that this book is about the way that soldiers in the First World War were offered reconstituted faces after suffering severe injuries would be far too simple. This is a book about the masks that people wear to disguise and put on a brave front when they are dealing with extreme emotions as well as the masks that were lovingly created for the facially injured. Apparently inspired by a true story, this recounts the experiences of Sam, an artist who was given a chance to make the first mask for a man who, it would seem, was confronted with another battle, to reintegrate with his life after a traumatic injury. Sam has fought his own battles – with a pre war love that could never be realised, a promise to care for a woman and child, and so much more. 

The injuries caused by battle were not only the visible, physical ones; Sam’s experience has left him as damaged as any soldier who survived. This is a book of extremes covered gently but with persistence, of a man shaken to his core by battle, of a woman who will always wonder about her relationship, of those who suffered actual injuries,of a remarkable man who feels that his life has been a preparation for a trial of rebuilding men. There are many others who have not actually seen a trench, but have experienced the effects of war second hand, and that has profoundly affected them.

This is a novel which is overwhelmingly honest in how it deals with people’s most secret feelings. Sam finds himself in an Irish castle in 1916, wondering if he wants to stay there, or indeed stay alive. An artist, he has strong visual memories of his life before the War, of his best friend Ned, of Katie, who fell in love with each other before his eyes. Of a promise made to look after the headstrong, brave, vibrant Ned when they both joined up. Of a promise that of course he could never keep, especially in the nightmare of senseless, overwhelming battle. His memory of the injuries and extraordinary deaths he witnessed can bring him to his knees mentally. Worse of all, he was found guilty of cowardice by a military tribunal, sentenced to a death he would almost have welcomed. At the last minute he was taken from confinement, sent to an obscure place to perform miracles. He can immediately see the possibilities, feel and sense the materials he would use to conceal and grant a permanent “thoughtful” expression for a man unbearably altered. The hardest miracle may be to choose to survive himself.

This is a book that holds nothing back in describing the pain, guilt and search for a way through by Sam and others. Katie knows the real feeling of knowing her great love was threatened by war, but also by herself , her emotions that she cannot understand,cannot begin to explain. That there are times when she longed for Ned, but knew that things would change, whatever the outcome of War. 

This is a book that is an experience to read, a profound novel of War and the damage it can do, from the front line soldier to those who wait at home, from an artist to a boy who delivers the letters that bring life transforming news. It goes without saying that it is incredibly well researched, but that it is taken to a further level, where people’s innermost feelings are exposed. It is not a huge read in terms of length, but in terms of what it conveyed to me as a reader it is enormous. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book, and recommend it as an overwhelmingly vivid novel of the damage of war.