Saturday, April 02, 2016

Anatomy Of A Soldier





Anatomy Of A Soldier

By Harry Parker

Published by Faber & Faber, March 2016






To say this is a remarkable book is something of an understatement. How on earth is it possible to write a new book about war, injuries and the realities of combat without ending up simply repeating chunks of what so many other books have said before?  Harry Parker has managed it and this book is very special indeed.

Our soldier is identified at the beginning simply by his army ID:  BA5799. We know nothing about him, really, other than that he has been very badly wounded indeed.  Each short chapter focuses on an aspect of his life as a soldier, from the tag which identifies him and his blood group, the fertiliser which is used by native inhabitants of the country to make the explosive device which changes his life forever, to the instruments used in operations and the wheelchair he uses at the start of his lengthy rehabilitation process.

In each chapter, we learn  a little more about BA5799,  Captain Tom Barnes, his life, his family, his hopes, his determination to do his job to the best of his ability and to treat the native people of the region with respect and decency, his comrades, the circumstances around his injuries and how his life falls apart and is slowly rebuilt. Running concurrently with this is the story of some of the inhabitants whom he meets and interacts with; what pressures are placed upon them and how they too do their best to cope with what fate has dealt them.

It can at times be a little challenging to work out what item is telling the story in the chapter; these can range from boots to surgical items, but it generally becomes obvious pretty quickly what they are.

Tough, gritty, emotional and succinct, I found this to be moving, enlightening and a terrific read.


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2 comments:

Pen Wilcock said...

Ooh - that sounds really interesting! I have a few books to finish reading first, but I'm adding this to my reading list!

Susie Hemingway said...

On my list, which seems to get longer by the day . Thanks for recommendation .