Read this novel and savour every page

2009-11-25 00:00


Small Wars

Sadie Jones

Chatto & Windus

SMALL Wars is an exceptional read. It has easily carved a niche for itself in my top books for the year.

Clara, a young mother to twin girls, accompanies her husband Colonel Hal Treherne to his posting in ­Cyprus, where he serves in the British army in 1956. Hal is all he should be for those times — a confident, able and honourable soldier; the alpha male fighting the enemy of the Empire — while Clara strives to be a good mother and wife, as she battles to settle in a foreign land.

As tensions mount between the Cypriots and the British, Hal’s job becomes more difficult as some of the soldiers under his command forego British honour, and take on the savage role of the oppressor.

He finds his sense of what is right thrown into question, and battles to mitigate the effects this has on him and on his relationship with Clara.

Clara cannot come to terms with the stranger Hal has become, as he distances himself from her and the girls, not understanding why he cannot deal with the issues soldiers should be able to handle.

Sadie Jones does not treat her reader like an idiot. She assumes they know something of the human condition and, refreshingly, her understated style reflects that. A small gesture on the part of one of her characters reveals their state of mind. She does not spell it out.

It shows she is confident enough of her skill in the craft not to have to repeat the message she is trying to get across in four different ways.

She also leaves open-ended questions and a twist reminiscent of Tess of the D’Urbervilles leaves you intrigued. Get it and read it now, but savour every page. You’ll be miserable that this reading experience is over when you have finished it.

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