GULF by Robert Westall


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A savage tale of a psychic child witnessing the terrors of the Gulf War through the eyes of Latif, a 13-year-old Iraqi soldier. Narrator Tom's younger brother, Andrew, has always had vivid ""dreams,"" sometimes fun and splendid, sometimes discomfiting--but since the invasion of Kuwait, his whole pattern of behavior has changed: At night he scratches at nonexistent lice, mutters triumphantly in an unknown language and behaves as if he were in a camp, surrounded by comrades. Soon Andrew's personality becomes totally subsumed by Latif's, and the boy is hospitalized. Tension mounts as the land war begins in Iraq; in a horrifying climax, Tom sees Andrew/Latif bombed, burned, and machine-gunned (all conveyed by his realistic reactions to his phantom environment). Andrew returns physically unharmed, but no longer the dreamy, sensitive child he was. Westall (Falling into Glory, p. 563, etc.) mordantly contrasts not only the fearful but proud Latif's view of the war with the impersonal, nearly bloodless version seen on TV, but also each side's affirmations of legitimacy and different perspectives on the war's causes. The result is an antiwar statement every bit as harrowing and furious as Peter Dickinson's AK (1992), at a third of the length.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1996
Page count: 101pp
Publisher: Scholastic