EASTER DAY, 1941 by G.F. Borden


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Down-and-dirty desert warfare, WW II-tank style, from an attorney/first novelist. Three Englishmen led by one American--a sergeant named Peter who narrates this violent tale--huddle inside a stolen and flimsy Italian tank sneaking across the scorching Libyan Desert towards safety in British-held Tobruk. From the first sentence (""Mackeson sees the rising trail of dust first""), these survivors of a destroyed Armored Division encounter one bloody obstacle after another, arranged by Borden to illuminate his theme: that a moral code can survive even in war's hell. Although Borden's plethora of brutalities grows repetitious, these inhumane acts--machine-gunning of defenseless soldiers, beating and torture of prisoners, rape of war refugees (carried out by the Allied crew, the Axis soldiers they meet, and on one occasion, by wandering Bedouins)--are set within taut scenes that vibrate with gritty desert heal and the claustrophobic terrors of life in an armored tank. On the way to Tobruk, Peter & crew pick up two Indian soldiers; but they, like most of Borden's characters, are interchangeable and forgettable, The two exceptions are Peter, who fights like a beast because of cruelties witnessed while soldiering for the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War: and a German general who embodies the hope for decency within war's anarchy. It is he who performs an astounding and, sadly, not wholly believable act of mercy: after Peter and crew are taken prisoner by a savage, murdering German officer, the general intervenes, shoots the officer, apologizes to the Allied men, and frees them to cross into Tobruk. There, for reasons left murky. Peter decides to give up warring--maybe. Dynamic sound and fury, but little subtlety or significance, fill this tense, realistic portrait of war's horrors.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1987
Publisher: Beach Tree/Morrow