Number of pages: 226
Kevin Powers' book is a gritty and harrowing novel set around the Iraq conflict.
Central to the book is the relationship between Privates John Bartles and Daniel "Murph" Murphy. We learn very early on, however, that Murph has been killed and the book focusses largely on the effects on John of his loss. The story is told from John's point of view in a memoir-like style, and vividly describes the conflict that takes place around him, as well as telling of how he was asked by Murph's mother to keep her son safe.
The story is not told in a linear style, and it jumps back and forth in the timeline; however, the beginning of each chapter indicates where the reader is in the chain of events. So, one moment, John will be talking about losing Murph, and then there will be a chapter about him and Murph both fighting in the war, and then there will be a chapter set after his return from the conflict. One of the most profound an enjoyable and profound moments was the depiction of his arrival home, and his descripton of how he goes up to his bedroom, slowly undresses and then puts his dog tags back on and stands looking at himself in the mirror. I noticed also that when senior officers are mentioned, they seem to come across as uncaring and unpleasant.
The dialogue is very descriptive about John's feelings throughout, including his friendship with Murphy, and both characters are easy to care about very quickly. Amongst the depictions of events, there are several moments where the narrator talks at length about his thoughts about what has happened, while the narrative slowly builds towards the moment when Murph was killed.
Overall, I loved this book; it wasn't particularly long, but I found it to be incredibly thought-provoking as a depiction of modern warfare and its effects on individuals, plus the struggle to overcome the loss of a friend.
Next book: A Good Parcel of English Soil (Richard Mabey)