Tuesday, December 29, 2009

BOOK: Small Wars by Sadie Jones

Title and author of book?

Small Wars by Sadie Jones, 376 pages

Fiction or non-fiction? Genre?
Fiction, literature- fiction. It's a relationship story, with a strong theme of war.

What led you to pick up this book?
I read Jones' The Outcast last year and liked it, so when I saw it as a review book to pick from RandomHouse Canada, I jumped on it. I also liked the idea of the Cyprus setting.

Summarize the plot, but don't give away the ending!
Major Hal Treherne, British career army guy, is posted to Cyprus in 1956, and brings his wife Clara and twin daughters to the island. The island is under battle between the British rule and the Turks and Greek inhabitants. Hal has anxious to be involved in real battles, like his father was, and that he was trained for, after a stint in Germany, but the realities of war hit him hard, and some situations happen that throw him into disarray. Plus, he has to deal with his wife who is living in a warzone.

What did you like most about the book?
The horrors of war, even a small war, are profound. The subtle changes in the relationships and Hal's outlook on the military were very well done. The setting of Cyprus felt very real, and the dangers of a terrorist situation were made done very well.

Comparing the 'small war' of Cyprus with the small wars in a marriage, and showing that no war is small when it affects any one person was well done.

What did you like least?
The horrors and tragedies of war were done very well, and several violent situations were described almost too well.

Have you read any other books by this author? What did you think of those books?
I read The Outcast, an shortlisted Orange nominated book in 2008. In both books, Jones tackles the crumbling British empire in the 1950s from the point of view of upper middle class. Stiff upper lip, pip, pip and all that stuff as their world changes around them.

What did you think of the main character?
Originally, I thought the main character was Clara, but Hal is equally important. The couple and their marriage were the main character. It took me a while to warm up to Hal, but I really felt for him by the end, and his moral decisions were stand up, and hard fought. Clara also grows a lot and has some tough decisions.

Any other particularly interesting characters?
Lt Davis, a translator, is the first to be shocked by the situations he is put it, and he is a pivotal character for both Clara and Hal. He certainly represents innocence.

Share a quote from the book:
Places that are fought over are always fought over, and will always be fought over, and there will never be an end to it, and each conflict is just adding to the heap of conflicts that no one can remember starting and no one will ever, ever finish. page 82

The outrage of the collective frees the individual to commit terrible acts. page 141

Share a favorite scene from the book.
There was a scene, late in the book, that flipped back and forth, quickly between Clara in town and Hal in the field, where is was clear some violent event would happen, but to who? when? how? It was very suspenseful and awful and well written to feel the tension.

What about the ending?
I was pleased with the ending, and the moral fortitude of the characters to deal with a life changing event and stay true to themselves.

Which of your readers are most likely to enjoy this book? Why?
Fans of British characters, fans of well-written books, people who like seeing the effects of war on the small scale, and the way people deal with terrible situations, fans of Sadie Jones book The Outcast.

also reviewed by:
S. Krishna
Katherine at a girl walked into a bookstore


  1. I have this book on my TBR pile. I hope to read it sooner rather than later.

  2. I don't think I ever got round to the Outcast, might have to pick up a copy of each!
    Great review layout by the way - would you mind if I borrowed it for my reviews? One of my New Year's Resolutions is to publish more structured reviews!

  3. kailana - the cover is beautiful, and really captures the feel of the wife. I hope you enjoy it.

    clare - I originally got the review layout at dewey's, so I am comfortable saying - have away. Dewey let me take it too, she was generous like that. It really helps sometimes to use the questions to organize my thoughts.

    I liked Small Wars better than the Outcast, but as I think about it, I can still remember a lot of details from The Outcast, and I read that over a year ago, so it made an impression as well.


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