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SMALL WARS by Sadie Jones

SMALL WARS

By Sadie Jones

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-06-192988-5
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Another intensely buttoned-up British scenario from Jones, who shows a marriage and a belief tested during the Cyprus Emergency.

The Outcast (2008), her powerfully visualized, emotionally devastating debut, portrayed a loner in postwar England. This follow-up focuses on a couple, Major Hal Treherne and his wife Clara. A career soldier known as a decent and fair man, Hal is posted in January 1956 to Cyprus, where colonial forces endure random bomb attacks and shootings by guerrillas seeking union with Greece. Clara and their twin daughters join him on the British base, but the two adults’ lives quickly diverge to run on parallel tracks. She is confined to the roles of wife, mother and sexual partner, while his responsibilities revolve around life-and-death military operations. Jones ably delineates in clipped, cool detail the divided male and female experiences: tense domesticity versus ineradicable encounters with blood and terror. Hal’s conscience is pricked by one of his subordinates, Lt. Davis, who reports that during a poorly organized mass roundup he observed the unprovoked shooting of a civilian and the rape of two women by British soldiers. Col. Burroughs, who ordered the roundup, disparages the witness and reprimands Hal. The gulf between his integrity and the military’s slippery pragmatism forces Hal finally to risk everything he previously held dear.

A darkly compelling account of honor and disillusionment with contemporary resonance, less wrenching than Jones’s first novel but nevertheless a confirmation of her considerable talent.