Author: Andrew Miller
Genre: General Fiction
Format: Paperback 432 pages
Release Date: 23 August 2018
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton / Sceptre
My Rating: ****
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
This book is set in 1809 and begins when an unknown man is taken by horse and cart to a house in Somerset. The unknown man is the protagonist of the story, John Lacroix, who has returned from fighting in Span as part of the Peninsular War. Lacroix is dropped off at his house, slightly worse for wear, and is nursed tenderly back to health by his house keeper.
Lacroix does not speak of his time fighting in Spain and it is clear there is much he would like to forget about his time spent over there. When he receives orders that he is to return to his regiment, Lacroix decides that he is not ready and embarks on a journey which takes him to a remote island in the Hebrides.
While Lacroix is recovering, An English solider named Calley is recounting to an informal tribunal of sorts of the atrocities he witnessed befell a Spanish village. Calley testifies he saw English soldiers rape and pillage the village and the order is given to Calley to find the soldier responsible and murder him. Medina is tasked to accompany Calley on this mission to ensure the deed is done so he can report back to the Spanish authorities that the culprit has been punished.
Who was the individual named by Calley who has just received his death sentence? Could it be that the traumatised and broken Lacroix is responsible for what happened in the Spanish village?
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I found myself enjoying this book far more than I thought I would. The authors writing style is almost poetic and paints such deliciously descriptive scenery in the readers imagination.
I don’t myself know much about this period in history, but war is war, no matter what century it takes place in. The way the author describes the emotions of Lacroix upon his return are ones I imagine anyone returning from the battlefield would feel.
The author builds Lacroix’s character marvellously throughout the book, taking the reader on Lacroix’s journey to recovery and the small steps he needs to take to make himself whole again. Lacroix’s difficulty in assimilating in to life after the war and finding himself on a remote island in the Hebrides I thought was a nice metaphorical touch illuminating how isolated Lacroix must have been feeling after his return.
There is a really interesting mix of characters and personalities throughout this book, yet for all their differences they all mesh and work well together to complete the narrative. Every character has a place and purpose in the storyline.
This is not necessarily a book I would usually gravitate towards but I am pleased I did so. The only reason this is a four star review is my opinion I felt it was a little bit slow moving in the beginning and the storyline didn’t really pick up properly until about half way through. However, this is a strong novel about war and the emotional after effects this can have on a person, also with some love, kindness and ultimately triumph thrown in. I think there is something in this book for most readers.
About the Author
Andrew Miller was born in Bristol in 1960. He has lived in Spain, Japan, Ireland and France, and currently lives in Somerset. His first novel, INGENIOUS PAIN, was published by Sceptre in 1997 and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Grinzane Cavour prize in Italy. He has since written five novels: CASANOVA, OXYGEN, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award and the Booker Prize in 2001, THE OPTIMISTS, ONE MORNING LIKE A BIRD, and PURE, which won the Costa Book of the Year award in 2011. His most recent novel, THE CROSSING, was published by Sceptre in 2015.
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