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Sunday, 24 January 2010

Books - Small Wars by Sadie Jones

Star rating – 7/10

As with her first novel, The Outcast, Sadie Jones tackles the repressed emotions inside a family, and how those emotions inevitably burst to the surface under extreme pressure in her second novel Small Wars. The setting this time is Cyprus during the 1950’s, and how Hal Treherne, a Major in the army, is posted there with his young wife Clara and their twin baby girls.

The story reveals how Hal feels brutalised by the horrors of war – many of the episodes recounted have more than distant echoes of events in the present day Iraq/Afghanistan conflict. It is the story of a marriage under extreme pressure, and how two loving and basically decent people cope with the fissures this brings to their relationship.

It makes for uncomfortable reading in places, as where Hal in turns acts in a very brutal way towards Clara, at a time long before post traumatic stress disorder was recognised. The characters are both trying to maintain a stiff upper lip; a product of their upbringings and of the age they are living in. It also brings home the fact that in war, so very little changes, even to this very day, which is a sobering thought.

Jones tells the story from both their perspectives equally, although she does not really try to get under the skin of their innermost feelings, which sometimes feels to be merely scratching the surface. Nevertheless, it is a well written period novel, which skilfully evokes the era it is set in, and keeps you guessing the final outcome to the very end.

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