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Restrained, compassionate and humane,
This review is from: Small Wars (Paperback)
When Hal Treherne graduates from Sandhurst in 1946 he has a brilliant army career in front of him. Ten years later he is a young major with a wife he adores and twin daughters. But when they are posted from Germany to Cyprus, site of a `small war' between British colonialism, the Greeks and the Turks, fissures start to appear in Hal's psyche and his patterned life begins to unravel.
This is a superb novel about people under pressure which is atmospherically embedded in the 1950s yet has contemporary resonances. Issues about interrogation and torture as well as the problematic photographing of prisoners are touched on, not to mention Cyprus' strategic position with regard to oil pipelines.
But this isn't a book that is merely a muted exploration of the political present - it's also about more domestic and universal themes: the inarticulateness which might exist within the closest relationships; the boundaries between love and lovelessness; the fragility of masculinity under pressure.
Jones might never win prizes for poetic sentences, but her pared back and deceptively simple way of writing hides an immense power that builds gradually. In the hands of a less accomplished author this might have been a very angry book - and a much less subtle and authoritative one. But her very restraint is what keeps this compassionate and non-judgemental rather than outraged. Her moral sense is acutely calibrated and her eye unflinching, but overall this is an overwhelmingly humane novel. Highly recommended.