nudge List Feb 2016: These boots are made for talking: Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker

Competition published on February 26, 2016.

Harry Parker joined the British Army when he was 23 and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Anatomy of a Soldier is his debut novel and judging by the pre-publication praise lavished on the book, he has much to look forward to. Hilary Mantel called it “a novel of concentrated ferocity and chilling accomplishments.’ Kate Hamer admired “a compassionate and compelling book where the artefacts and detritus of war tell their own emotive stories.”Harry Parker (c) Gemma Day

Captain Tom Barnes is leading British troops in a war zone. Two boys are growing up there, sharing a prized bicycle and flying kites, before finding themselves separated once the soldiers appear in their countryside. On all sides of this conflict, people are about to be caught up in the violence, from the man who trains one boy to fight the infidel invaders to Barnes’ family waiting for him to return home.

We see them not as they see themselves, but as all the objects surrounding them do: shoes and boots, a helmet, a trove of dollars, a drone, the bike, weaponry, a bag of fertilizer, a medal, a beer glass, a snowflake, dog tags, an exploding IED and the medical implements that are subsequently employed.

The novel is certainly a moving and dramatic re-telling of one man’s journey of survival but the difficulty for some readers is likely to be the brave, perhaps risky, narrative format. “Forty-five objects, one unforgettable story” the press release promises. Does the anthropomorphism work? When Captain Barnes’ boots declare “I have BA5799 written on my tongue and he walked me across the tarmac towards a city of white tents and cream hangars, floating on that shimmering desert mirror” you are torn between admiration for the writer’s audacity and amazement at the phrase-making capacities of a pair of desert boots.

Ultimately, it comes down to the reader’s willingness to suspend disbelief and go along with the narrative tropes. Will it “immediately take its place on the short shelf of classics about men at war?” The jury, one suspects, will be out for a while.

Bert Wright, Editor – The Nudge List
Harry Parker (c) Gemma Day

Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker is published by Faber & Faber as a £14.99 HBK on 25th February.

Read an extract.

We have 3 copies of the book to give away!

For your chance to win, simply fill in the form below:

The Competition is closed.

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