Good Reading : April 2016
GOOD READING APRIL 2016 39 Author of the international bestseller The Tea Chest Out now where all good books are sold Anatomy of a Soldier Harry Parker Even before its publication, this has become one of the most talked-about books of 2016. Literary blogs and the Twittersphere, particularly in Europe, were abuzz with previews of the novel, the first for a British Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, where he was blown up in 2009 and subsequently lost his legs. It took a bit of research to discover that fact, as Parker claims he does not want to be defined as a ‘legless bloke who wrote a book, but rather as someone who could write’. The novel, based on his own experiences, is a powerful account of the effect of an improvised explosive device (IED) on the body of a young British officer, Captain Tom Barnes, as well as the effect of military conflict on the people of an unnamed Muslim country. The story is told by equipment and everyday objects involved in the lives of soldiers and civilians in such a conflict. There are 45 chapters, each featuring one of those objects, including a tourniquet, dog tags, a bicycle shared by two local boys, medical equipment used to keep the blasted soldier alive, and even his prosthetic legs. One of the shortest chapters is an account by the IED itself. The chapter is brutal and explosive, just like the device. The progression of the story is not straightforward; there’s a chapter about Tom Barnes preparing for patrol followed by another charting his progress after being ser iously injured. Then might come one about insurgents making IEDs. Parker has said in interviews that these non-sequential chapters could be chucked up in the air and read in any order, because that’s what it’s like to be blown up. It’s a new and powerful way to tell a war story, and it packs a tremendous punch. ★★★★★ Faber $29.99 Reviewed by Jennifer Somerville GENERAL FICTION About Harry Parker Harry Parker lost both his legs in 2009 in Afghanistan after deciding to take a line of soldiers on a shorcut through a field rather than take a longer path.