Sweeping tale of war and friendship has a slightly old-fashioned ring to it

2010-02-03 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

Blood Lily

Mason Cranswick

30 Degree South Publishers

DESCRIBED, in its blurb, as “a sweeping tale of naïvety, treachery, war and genocide, of love and friendship … and ultimately of hope and regeneration”, author Mason Cranswick’s debut novel has a slightly old­fashioned quality to it, which may or may not be intentional.

Mixing fact with fiction it tells the story of two boyhood friends — one white, one black — who find themselves fighting on opposite sides in the Rhodesian bush war.

As a member of the elite Special Air Service (SAS), Scott, the book’s narrator, finds himself participating in some of the major events of the conflict (the assault on Chimoio Camp in Mozambique, the audacious raid on Joshua Nkomo’s Zipra HQ in Lusaka) and he is also on hand when an Air Rhodesia viscount is shot down shortly after taking off from Kariba airport and its survivors — who include his girlfriend — subsequently massacred.

Shaken by this callous act Scott becomes further embittered when, caught up in an ambush that sees several of his colleagues killed, he discovers his unit’s position was betrayed by his erstwhile buddy, Simba. After the war their paths cross once more, leading to an inevitable confrontation and ­finally a restoration of the former friendship.

Although there is more than a whiff of Wilbur Smith about Blood Lily’s plot, Cranswick marshals his material together skilfully enough. The ­action sequences are well described and the author obviously has a deep love of the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe landscape which he manages to convey with feeling. Overall, though, the book’s impact is blunted by its rather thin characterisation and somewhat formulaic setting.

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