Posts Tagged ‘war’

At the time I composed this post, the United States had been at war for almost eight years. Eight years with more than 100,000 men and women deployed at any given time. The number of spouses, significant others and family members left behind is staggering. While our soldiers are in Afghanistan and Iraq, fighting for what they beleive will better the world, their families also sacrifice. They sacrifice time with loved ones, they live with worry and fear of that phone call that will shatter their world, they live with the possibility that their soldier will not be the same person he/she was when they left. But we rarely ever have an opportunity to hear the stories of the families who stay home, tend to domestic matters and provide what little support they are able to offer their soldier.

The Author:

Siobhan Fallon’s collection of short stories offers a glimpse into this world often neglected by a society so overborne with stories of war, of death and of IEDs that they don’t even imagine the suffering, so seemingly trivial in comparison to the service of a soldier, experienced by the spouses. Fallon has every qualification to pen a collection of army wife stories as an wife who spent three deployments living at Fort Hood while her husband fought abroad.

The Book:

Each story is carefully designed to offer a different dynamic while remaining focussed on the relationship between a man and his wife. Whether the experience is one of jealousy, heartbreak, devotion, loss or frustration, each story revolves around one family’s struggles to survive domestic life after or during the husband’s period of active duty.

Fallon does not adhere to the female perspective. Some of her stories dive into the soldier’s mind and offer glimpses of his deployed experience  as well as his mental struggles and pain in returning to domestic life. These moments feel clear and unforced, Fallon’s character depictions are tangible and moving. The stories feel honest and plausible; these stories bring an outside reader into the domestic world of military service that is ignored in the headlines.

The only gripe I have about these stories are the endings. Every story, excepting the last, ends without an ending. Fallon builds tension, she brings characters to life and she leaves the audience hanging on the last page. Some of these stories were beyond frustrating because of the loose ends. The emotional arch necessary to give the reader a sense of understanding, conclusion or fulfillment never comes to fruition. It’s like taking your partner on a date to the movies and walking out ten minutes before the show’s over.

Siobhan Fallon’s Website

This is undoubtedly one of the best books I’ve read this year. Little Bee has a new home in my top 10 list. I won’t give a synopsis, but I will say that you MUST read this book.

But it’s not the story that makes this novel great (although the story in itself is good enough to accomplish that). It’s how the story is told that is captivating. The structure of the novel is important in the tale. And that’s all that I will say about it.

Cleave is a master of the English language. He employs metaphors so powerful they will change the way that you view our world. His writing is not flowery, it does not waste paper or ink, and it does not get lost in itself. Cleave’s writing is concise and enticing.

This book will probably be the best novel you read this year and it’s only his second novel. Cleave is a writer to follow.

Cleave’s website:

The Quiet American is a vibrant novel about love, obsession, murder, redemption, politics, and war. Graham Green was an English writer and the protagonist (Thomas Fowler) is naturally English. The Quiet American was not originally well received in the US because it was perceived as demonizing the American presence in Vietnam. But today it is recognized for beautiful prose and different approach to structure than is typical of a novel.

The structure of the Quiet American is fascinating because it operates like a flashback, except that the majority of the novel is a flashback. Thus the present experiences are like a flashpresent if there were a term for this structure; the tense flashes from the past into the present rather than from the present into the past. This structure is fascinating because the audience already knows the plot, they know Pyle has been murdered, and it quickly becomes clear who is responsible for his death. We even know the motivation, but Graham has used his structure of time and setting in such a way that it feels confessionary.

The entire novel is told through Fowler’s memory. This technique is intriguing partially because fiction-writing books always warn developing writers to use the flashback sparingly. The feeling of movement is created by Greene’s usage of short sections that each comprises a memory. While the time of the novel elapses over a couple of years it feels like Fowlers’s musings occur in a single evening.

Each section is a complete scene. Either the cast of characters or the setting changed entirely in each section. On a structural level this helps keep the pace moving quickly, but it also gives a rich landscape for the novel. By giving us so many memories we witness an apartment, a government facility, a spiritual church, a rice patty, a watchtower, the home of a Vietnamese family, a city street, a restaurant, a scene of mass death, bombings, a club, an opium den, and a brothel (I may have forgotten a couple of places). This myriad of settings gives a realistic glimpse of the life of an expatriate during the Vietnam War.

The only scene that was repeated was the first and second to last chapters in which Pyle and Phuong meet outside his room the night of Pyle’s death. Even though this scene is repeated it is told differently so that it is more of a reminder of the first chapter than a repeat, and it is only a small section of the first chapter. The repetition of this section could mean that Phuong and their relationship is the most important part of the story for Fowler. This statement does not indicate that this novel is a love story; Fowler’s obsession with Phuong might be better categorized as a concern for his loss of stature and pride, and a fight over a woman who he considered as a possession rather than as a human he had deep sentimental connection with. But that is really for the reader to decide.

I highly recomend taking the time to read this beautifully written novel!

Graham Green as told by Wikipedia

The evocative images and underlying message in this powerful novel are unforgettable. Orwell delves into the ugliness that humans resort to when faced with fear for their own survival. This story is a timeless must read for any lover of literature.

BBC on Orwell

Orwell Bio, Interpretation, Forum

Orwell Bio, Quotes, Complete Works