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Under the Sun [Hardcover]

Justin Kerr-Smiley
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Review

The gripping and beautifully paced debut of an intriguing new talent. --William Dalrymple

From the Publisher

UNDER THE SUN is not only a novel about war and its effect upon the human condition, it also explores the redemptive power of friendship and how it can surpass all odds, inspiring love and even sacrifice.

From the Author

Novel Background

The Prussian general Karl Von Clausewitz famously described war "as the continuation of politics by other means". But like many aphorisms it conceals just as much as it reveals. There is always some point in a dispute (often more than one) where diplomacy has failed, resulting in the subsequent conflict. And so nations embark on an exercise which ends up being far more costly in human and material terms than the original disagreement.

Taking Von Clausewitz's maxim further- what then of those who must fight such wars? As a child I was fascinated by the story of the 1914 Christmas truce between British and German soldiers. How was it that men who had been fighting each other for weeks could suddenly lay down their guns and become brothers in arms? One moment they were shooting at each other, the next moment they were playing football amidst the barbed wire and snow of No Man's Land. It showed that humanity could triumph over inhumanity so long as there was the will to do so. What it also proved in my young mind was that conflict between nations is not inevitable and indeed is often wholly avoidable. Furthermore almost every war ends in a peace treaty, often signed by the very men who began the conflict.

I have always wondered how enemies would react if the state of conflict was removed, just as it was on Christmas day in 1914? It seems to me that man would make peace with his fellow man, if only to make life easier for himself. The Darwinian concept of self preservation being inherent in all species. But what if two enemies not only made peace with each other, but also became friends while their nations were still at war?

With that in mind I remembered my grandfather who fought the Japanese for three years in Burma. Not only was he decorated, more importantly he survived. He also brought back a samurai sword as part of the `spoils' of war. He once told me how it had come into his possession. He had killed the owner in an ambush on a Japanese column during the monsoon. There had been a heavy rainstorm and in the attack my grandfather had slipped on the road. Out of the bushes charged this soldier, his word raised, ready to cut his adversary in two. My grandfather just had time to reach for his revolver and shot the officer, who fell down dead at his feet. He took the sword, but later he often wondered about the man and his family. In other circumstances might they not have been friends?
This then was the genesis of Under The Sun. Two men, a RAF flight lieutenant and a Japanese officer decide to lay down their arms and become friends while their countries continue their own mortal combat.

From the Back Cover

UNDER THE SUN is set in the closing stages of World War Two in the South Pacific. Flight Lieutenant Edward Strickland is a young RAF Spitfire pilot flying sorties over the Carolines and their outlying atolls. On a dawn patrol he is shot down attacking a submarine and ends up on a remote island occupied by a small Japanese garrison that has remained undetected throughout the war. The garrison's commander Captain Tadashi Hayama brutally interrogates his captive and a battle of wills develops between the two men. The scene is set for a contest where there will only be one victor. But events take an unexpected turn and the island becomes, for a while, a kind of Eden. The war is a distant memory that has no relevance to the rhythms and echoes of island life. Yet beyond its shores danger lurks and Japan's capitulation after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leads to a climactic end that shatters the idyll for ever.

UNDER THE SUN is not only a novel about war and its effect upon the human condition, it also explores the redemptive power of friendship and how it can surpass all odds, inspiring love and even sacrifice.

About the Author

Justin Kerr-Smiley was born in 1965 and educated at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne.
He works as a journalist for Associated Press Television News and has reported from Northern Ireland, the Balkans and South America. He has also has articles published in The Times, the Spectator and Tatler.
Under the Sun is his first novel. Justin Kerr-Smiley lives in London

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

......The sun rose beyond the island. A breath of wind stirred the leaves of the coconut palms that lined the airstrip, their fronds sashaying together in a dance. On the breeze came an odour of raw fish, hibiscus and engine oil: the smell of the tropics. The runway faced eastwards, pointing towards the rising sun like a blade, its surface covered with sheets of pierced steel planking because of the monsoon. Lined up along the airstrip were the sixteen Mark VIII Spitfires of 607 Squadron, the planes arrayed in clusters of four, the backs of their sleek bodies arched against the increasing light so they looked like a school of porpoises breasting the surf. The airfield was deserted except for the sentries guarding the main gate and the duty officer up in the wooden control tower. Sitting in his wicker chair the officer yawned and stretched and looked across at the empty runway. Out of the gloom a figure wearing flying kit emerged from one of the huts and began walking towards the aircraft. It was the pilot of the dawn patrol.
Before the Allied victory in Europe, the squadron had always gone out in pairs and most often in fours, but with the fall of Berlin and the Japanese defeat at Guadalcanal and at Iwo Jima the war, which seemed to have gone on for as long as anyone could remember, was now almost at an end. The once feared Imperial Japanese Airforce was no longer a threat and the main purpose of 607 Squadron's patrols were to support Allied advances in the region and harass any Japanese shipping unwise enough to find itself caught in the open sea. It was only a matter of time until the Showa Emperor and his cohorts around the Chrysanthemum throne capitulated. Or so everyone, including Flight Lieutenant Edward Strickland, liked to think.
The pilot paused and taking a Players from its packet, he put the cigarette to his lips, flicked open a lighter and lit it, enjoying the tobacco smoke that filled his lungs before replacing the lighter and cigarette packet in the top pocket of his shirt. He stood and stared at the ascending sun, its rays penetrating the gold clouds of the horizon, reaching out across the sky like a many bladed fan. It reminded him of benediction at school when the priest held up the monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament, while they all bowed their heads. It was a moment of epiphany, the sunlight falling in slabs through the tall windows, the clouds of incense dusting the air with myrrh, the pale candles flickering on the altar, the choristers' voices filling the church with song. And now at dawn on the other side of the world here was another, albeit different, benediction. Standing alone on the runway, Strickland bowed his head, but this time before the sun god. He stood up and stubbed out his cigarette and walked towards his plane.......

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