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The Letter Bearer Hardcover – 6 Mar 2014


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Granta (6 Mar. 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1847088236
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847088239
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.1 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 386,385 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'This is a tremendous second world war novel. With thickets of intense, opaque prose and some striking, hallucinatory descriptions of the desert... Allison writes powerfully - often thrillingly - about the nitty-gritty of conflict. A finely crafted debut' --Financial Times

'Allison's debut is a beautifully written investigation into alienation, guilt and the will to survive. The desert is a character itself, brilliantly alive and vividly depicted. This is a gripping exploration of one man's travails - and through him, those of millions other men trapped in the terrible mechanism of war' --Independent

'An excellent and elegant novel written with patience and authority… Alison succeeds by keeping the dialogue terse, the emotional range narrow, and the prose consistent and anchored to realism… this is what makes a compelling novel' --Chris Cleave, chair of the Desmond Elliott Prize judges

'Allison's debut takes its readers into the dark heart of war... Haunting, poignant and delivered with an unerring eye for detail. The literature of war is as old as war itself and this harrowing novel is a fine addition to it' **** --Sunday Telegraph

'Allison's debut takes its readers into the dark heart of war... Haunting, poignant and delivered with an unerring eye for detail. The literature of war is as old as war itself and this harrowing novel is a fine addition to it' **** --Sunday Telegraph

'Robert Allison's debut is an unusual and ambitious work, one that offers a new perspective on the traditional war novel' --Irish Examiner

'This is an artfully crafted book with passages of action and punchy dialogue interspersed with metaphysical ruminative reflections that recall Albert Camus' --'Book of the Week', Telegraph and Argus

About the Author

ROBERT ALLISON has been a theatre director, a film and music reviewer and a copy-editor. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bunny on 10 Mar. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a strong, thought-provoking novel that is more about the psychological consequences of combat rather than battle itself. Dealing with a small group of allied soldiers in North Africa during WW2, it's a convincing portrait of men who have been pushed beyond their limits but who still retain the survival instinct. Though the main characters are deserters I felt great empathy for them and the journey they take across the Libyan desert is a harsh but fascinating one. This is an absorbing and exciting read which I didn't want to end and couldn't get out of my mind for a long time afterwards.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By KittenSpook on 17 April 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Set in the North African desert during World War 2, a soldier wakes after a mine has blown him from his motorcycle, leaving him with life-threatening injuries and no memory of his name or rank. With his tags and insignia stolen by desert natives the only clues he has to his past are in the satchel of letters he was carrying.

Allison has ventured into rarely explored fictional territory here, touching on the themes of survival under extreme conditions, cowardice, desertion, and the importance of identity. The novel succeeds on all of the levels it explores due to a tightly structured narrative and intelligent and invigorating prose. It's refreshing to see a novel that has been so carefully and finely crafted by an author confident in his command of the language and his ability to paint a vivid and emotional landscape. Part mystery and part an exploration of war and of men that displace themselves from the horrors of combat both physically and mentally, The Letter Bearer stands out as an exceptional debut from an author to watch out for. Highly recommended!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James on 10 Mar. 2014
Format: Hardcover
I picked this up after reading the rave review in The Financial Times - the comparisons to The English Patient and classic war film got me interested. I have to say I devoured it - it's something new in war time fiction and definitely worth a look.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jeton Kulinxha on 14 Mar. 2014
Format: Hardcover
Without a warning, almost real-time, I was ushered to witness the aftermath of a bomb explosion and its most redeemable feature it had left behind – a survivor!
Here was a man with no memory and no idea of his name, yet miraculously alive and carrying stubbornly a bag full of thoughts of dying soldiers; men who had sent their love and last goodbyes to their cherished ones in letters.
Painful, intriguing stuff.

Robert Allison already had me on page one and I gladly embarked on the journey with the Rider, the letter bearer, but he had also managed to fool me into thinking I was to read the usual war chronicles convoluted with fond memories of green-gardened Home County barbecues and iced G and T.
True, perhaps, at times, but not quite.
Ever the sneaky fellow, Mr. Allison used his cunning and beautiful prose to seduce me into devouring the next few gripping pages, before hurling me onto the vastness of the North African desert and made me look around my room and doubt if I was really sitting in the comfort of my own sofa.

Note: Some very few writers can and have done that to me numerous times, and without necessarily beginning to hate them with passion, I have accepted they are very good at what they do.

So anyway, there I was left to the nothingness that barren land and cloudless skies provide, bar for the few British army deserters who save the rider. From there on, I slowed down and reflected while paying real attention to the manner in which men battle their regrets in anger here.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A touch of 'The English Patient' about this book but without the romance! Without giving too much away - the story initially begins as one of physical endurance but it quickly becomes apparent that the main character's on-going discovery of self is where the real struggle for survival is taking place. You may not always like the main character; his thought processes and conclusions on life or his opinions about his fellow compatriots but the book is so well written with believable scene setting that you want to keep reading.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book "didn't quite make it" for me. The concept of the plot was excellent and the diverse characters of the individuals were brilliantly portrayed. Considering the North African desert location and the severity of the rider's injuries, his physical recovery was rather miraculous, and the amount of weapons, provisions and water that the group possessed and eventually managed to carry with them was impressive. Descriptions, went into elaborate detail, but were wordy and detracted from the story.
I shall look out for the author's next book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
well written book. some very challenging moral issues and a meditation on the nature of bravery, cowardice, and survival in wartime. difficult to put down. recommended to lovers of war stories.
Nadia
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Format: Kindle Edition
`The Letter Bearer' is found badly injured laying beside his wrecked motorcycle. He has no memory and he has been stripped of all identification. All he has left is his post-bag full of letters.

He is rescued by a rag-tag group of army deserters who have established a make-shift camp in the middle of nowhere.

When the camp is discovered by the enemy and attack is imminent the group must set off for safer ground.

Their trek through the desert is fraught with danger. Uppermost is their instinct for self-preservation and survival, a perilous situation for a ravaged group of men with no expectation of loyalty to one another and each with their own personal war raging inside.

An exceptionally well written story, the topography of the North Africa desert is described in tight vivid prose as well as the broken men struggling for survival in an unforgiving landscape.

As well written as the story is, the plethora of descriptive passages and the use of obscure words, left me wondering if the author was not trying too hard. When I was overcome with too much of it I plodded on only because I was totally invested in knowing the fate of `the rider' as `The Letter Bearer' is called throughout the book.
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