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An outstanding debut,
This review is from: The Harrowing (Paperback)
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So many novels have been written about the First World War that to find something new to say about it seems almost an impossible task. It is to Robert Dinsdale's credit, then, that he has done exactly that. 'The Harrowing' is set against the backdrop of the war, but its main interest is in the individual human stories that play out against it. By keeping the big picture of the war to its margins, the novel highlights its individual tragedies without ever losing sight of the fact that every person caught up in the conflict might have their own stories to tell.
For its realism, the narrative has an otherworldly feel, especially in its evocation of place. Both Leeds and the various locations on the front lines are recognisably real, while at the same time being the backdrops for a mythical tale. The story is both absolutely timeless and firmly grounded in its historical moment.
This is Dinsdale's first novel and it shows remarkable maturity. For all the suffering and horror of the war, he also gives us passages of real lyrical beauty. Much of the book's strength lies in the little details, such as the story of the young soldier who wasn't picked to play in the football match of the famous Christmas truce. It's these quirky but believable details that bring the story to life.
According to his biography as printed in the book, Dinsdale no longer lives in Leeds. I do hope that this won't stop him from writing about the city again in the future.