People tend to be ambivalent about World War I. One of the reasons for this is that the motivations behind it aren't as cut and dry as those for WWII. Ask someone about reasons for WWII, and you'll promptly be told that the Nazis, with their death camps, dreams for world domination and a master race, needed to be stopped. Ask about WWI, and you'll probably get muddled explanations about the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand, and old alliances which needed to be honoured. It's just not as clear cut. Also, the "war to end all wars" was not that. Twenty years later, the world was once again plunged into war, and some of the conditions which allowed the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich can be traced to the aftermath of WWI. Further, the losses of the war were so horrendous that often its results seem overshadowed by its cost. Even with the the victory at Vimy, Berton concludes that the ground gained was not worth the lives lost.
Whatever your opinions on the war, what should not be overlooked are the deeds of the men. One of the great strengths of Berton's book is that it clearly outlines just what these men- individually and as a whole- accomplished under the worst conditions imaginable. In his account, the Canadian Corps is not just a faceless mass, but many individuals who fought shoulder to shoulder as brothers, and as Canadians. We may, from our privileged positions, question the end results of the Great War, but we should never forget the sacrifices made in it, or do less than honour the men who gave all at Vimy and elsewhere.
In closing, I read 'Vimy' shortly after I finished rereading 'Sunshine Sketches Of A Little Town', published in 1912, and it was a jarring contrast. One of the features of that delightful book is the insular thinking of the town's denizens. Their town is the center of their existence, and they have little interest in the outside world. Two years later, in 1914, Canada was at war. Their young men in deadly peril far away in France, Canadians were forced into a wider knowledge of the world. The small town innocence described in 'Sunshine Sketches' was gone forever, and the book, within two years of its publication, had become a period piece.