Saturday, December 24, 2016

Anatomy of a Soldier - Harry Parker

Sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Copyright: Harry Parker, 2016

ISBN: 978-0571325832

Format: Paperback, 314pp

Genre: Drama/Realism

Rating: 4.5/5

Summed up in a few words
Uncensored. Emotional. Important. Unique.

First Impressions
Thank you to Amelia at Faber & Faber for this review copy! As soon as I picked up this book I knew I had to read it immediately. Not only is the topic incredibly important and relevant, but also the unique perspectives had me sufficiently intrigued. I was blown away by this book, it is an eye opening account of a man's struggle to recuperate after being severely injured by an IED whilst serving his country. His account is narrated by 45 different objects that surround him throughout the duration of the story, some that were crucial to his survival and others that are essential to his rehabilitation. (There are a few minor SPOILERS in the full review below)

Book Synopsis
Captain Tom Barnes is leading British troops into a war zone when he is gravely injured by an exploding IED. This devastating moment and the transformative months that follow are narrated here by forty-five objects, telling one unforgettable story. (Official Synopsis)

My Thoughts
Anatomy of a Soldier is unquestionably the most unique book I have read this year. I was concerned that having a story narrated to me by inanimate objects surrounding the main character of the book may not be as interesting as it first seemed. There was chance it could have felt gimmicky and confusing but Harry Parker has done an excellent job with the writing. Based on his own experiences with being hit with an IED on the front-line in Afghanistan, Parker has lived this life and he provides an honest account of his experiences. Keeping an objective perspective worked so well, it allowed the reader to react to the content with their own emotions without having cues from the text.

Following the events surrounding Tom Barnes through the 'eyes' of items/objects was both surreal (especially the oscillating saw chapter) and gave the book a really raw feeling. Not having a filter on Tom's experiences was powerful and at times overwhelming. His pain, sorrow, family, injuries, difficulties and emotions are all on show here and I found myself welling up at the more in-depth content. There is a wide variety of objects, from a kit bag, breathing tube, wheelchair, pistol and prosthetic leg to a boot, detonator, helmet and dog-tags, among many other items.

The plot arc follows three main areas of Tom's life, before the bomb, during the actual incident and his recovery. The story also follows several individuals that are either involved in the bombing or helping him recover. This provides three distinct tones to the text, one of experience, one of horror and another of absolute determination. In my own opinion, the overall theme of Anatomy of a Soldier is that it highlights the individual loses and suffering that is often forgotten when looking back on conflict. It is a powerful subject and with the modern setting, Anatomy of a Soldier is a relevant and eye-opening account of what the people we leave in the back of our minds day-to-day really encounter and endure on the front line of a conflict.

Overall, if you are interested in both realistic and dramatic fiction which is based on experience then this will suit you. If you have a weak stomach or cannot endure the suffering of others then I would avoid this book. I wouldn't say I enjoyed this book (difficult considering the subject), but I was thoroughly satisfied with the writing style and I appreciate the content and author for telling this story. I do recommend this book to everyone, especially if your looking for a new style of writing that makes you think deeper about simple interactions that you have every day.

Buy or Read: Amazon UK/Amazon US/Goodreads

About The Author: Harry Parker grew up in Wiltshire. He was educated at Falmouth College of Art and University College London. He joined the British Army when he was 23 and served in Iraq in 2007 and Afghanistan in 2009 as a captain. He is now a writer and artist and lives in London. (Faber & Faber Bio)

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