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Small Wars: A Novel

Small Wars: A Novel

Written by Sadie Jones

Narrated by Stephen Hoye


Small Wars: A Novel

Written by Sadie Jones

Narrated by Stephen Hoye

ratings:
4/5 (24 ratings)
Length:
10 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jan 25, 2010
ISBN:
9781400185566
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

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Description

Fresh off her triumphantly assured debut novel The Outcast, award-winning author Sadie Jones has again delivered a quiet masterpiece in Small Wars. Set on the colonial, war-torn island of Cyprus in 1956, Jones tells the story of a young solider, Hal Treherne, and the effects of this "small war" on him, his wife, Clara, and their family. Reminiscent of classic tales of love and war such as The English Patient and Atonement, Jones's gripping novel also calls to mind the master works of Virginia Woolf and their portrayal of the quiet desperation of a marriage in crisis. Small Wars is at once a deeply emotional, meticulously researched work of historical fiction and a profound meditation on war-time atrocities committed both on and off the battlefield.
Publisher:
Released:
Jan 25, 2010
ISBN:
9781400185566
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook


About the author

Sadie Jones is the author of five novels, including The Outcast, winner of the Costa First Novel Award in Great Britain and a finalist for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Los Angeles TimesBook Prize/Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction; the enchanting, hard-hitting novel set on the island of Cyprus during the British occupation, Small Wars; her most successful, bestselling novel The Uninvited Guests, beloved of Ann Patchett and Jackie Winspear, among other; the romantic novel set in London's glamorous theatre world, Fallout; and most recently, the highly acclaimed, bestselling novel, The Snakes. Sadie Jones lives in London.  

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4.0
24 ratings / 25 Reviews
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  • (5/5)
    I loved this novel from beginning to end, and sped through the near 500 pages in 24 hours. Everything about it was terrific - the unusual setting of the Greek Cypriot unrest against British occupation in Cyprus, the subtle tension built up around the military action and the ensuing psychological fallout, and the pinpoint observations of the slow rot setting into what had been a perfect marriage.Jones is an amazing writer: her prose is so descriptive and her plots so cleverly executed I almost forget I'm reading at all.A perfect holiday read spoilt only by the terrible cover which makes me think of mass market romance books.5 stars - practically perfect.
  • (4/5)
    Set in 1956 Cyprus, just prior to the start of the Suez Crisis, this story really packs quite the punch. What I found amazing is how well Jones balances the emotional roller coaster ride of the plot with the more subdued, rather understated prose. The raw emotional energy of Hal and Clara is there, lashing like an electric current, but constrained in a stoic English facade of repression and lack of honest communication. The story is multifaceted as Jones bares to the reader the inner thoughts, emotions and turmoil of her main characters. The story vividly captures the growing unrest of Cypriates under colonial British rule of the time period and the rising terrorist activities of EOKA (Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston) which the British were struggling to contain. The narrator, Stephen Hoye, does an amazing job, making it easy for me to understand the emotions of Hal and Clara. Sadly, the ending fell flat for me, rather anticlimactic compared to the prior bits and left me at a loss as to how I felt about the story. I found Hal to be a rather frustrating character and even felt compelled to reach out and slap him across the face at one point, which I won't go into because that would mean revealing spoilers. Suffice to say, it is a well crafted story that really gets under the skin of its main characters, giving the reader much to contemplate.
  • (4/5)
    Set in the 1950s during the military conflict in Cyprus, this is an example of how war - no matter how small - can bring tragedy for those involved. The author has a beautiful writing style and even though the characters have difficulty expressing their emotions, Jones is skilled at allowing the reader to understand them. An excellent work that I can recommend highly.
  • (4/5)
    Small Wars by Sadie Jones is set on the island of Cyprus during 1956. This was a time of military conflict and Major Hal Treherne has been posted there, soon his wife Clara and their two young daughters join him. Theirs is a military family and Hal is soon relishing leading his men into combat and serving his country in the way he has been trained to. Clara feels it is her role to back Hal, accept their living conditions and not complain or let her husband see her fear.But this isn’t an open battle, this war for independence is being fought by guerrillas and schoolchildren alike. The lines of battle are unclear and civilians are often targeted., atrocities are being done by both sides. As Hal works at being a good solider, he finds himself on the same side as rapists and torturers. He withdraws into himself and Clara feels more and more abandoned. It takes a personal tragedy to change their lives and eventually open the path of communication between them. The author has turned her microscopic view on this marriage and we can see that love, duty, stress, fear and mostly non-communication all play a role in the distance that separates these two. I felt this was a statement not only about life in the military but also about life in the 1950’s when talking about one’s feelings was not considered acceptable conversation. I applaud the author for telling this story, I loved the setting but unfortunately I never felt emotionally involved with the characters. They seemed to hold themselves as much at a distance from the reader as they did from each other. Perhaps this was the authors’ design, but it kept me from totally falling in love with this book.
  • (5/5)
    “This sick fear was new to him; like shame, it had been unknown. Now he was well acquainted with both.” (348) Major Hal Treherne is a young, dedicated soldier who has risen impressively through the ranks. Thirsting for action, he does not hesitate to accept a transfer from Europe to the Mediterranean in 1956. He, his wife Clara, and their two young children relocate from Germany to Cyprus. Their timing is certainly amendable to action: the island is in the midst of the Emergency. The British are defending their colony from the Cypriots who are battling for union with Greece. Of course, there is nothing small about war, even a “small war.” Hal, like most soldiers, is changed by atrocity. And Clara grows fearful of the world she is living in. Doubt, fear, betrayal, and shame threaten to derail their marriage. “She was hot and panicking and felt imaginary Cypriot eyes upon her. She had started to feel like that all the time now. When she was in her bedroom she imagined them watching her house, when she was opening her front door she imagined tripwires across it and had begun to check, without letting anyone see she was doing it. Whenever she got into the car, part of her was expecting it to blow up. Every sound she heard had both a benign and a sinister interpretation, and she would have to remind herself to keep to the real world and not be drawn into her fear completely, not let it overtake her.” (154)Small Wars is eminently readable, so much so that I didn’t want to put it down. In addition to being a haunting depiction of the Cyprus Emergency and a marriage in crisis, it raises bold questions which resonate acutely about our contemporary world view and, even less flattering, about the moral superiority with which we righteously defend our ruthless assault on “terrorists.” Jones is quickly becoming a favourite author. Small Wars, like The Outcast before it, is highly recommended.“History doesn’t end. Places that are fought over are always fought over, and will always be fought over, and there will never be an end to it, and each conflict is just adding to the heap of conflicts that no one can remember starting and no one will ever, ever finish.” (82)
  • (4/5)
    A story about wars indeed, but in no way small.Hal is a British soldier promoted to Major posted in Cyprus to fight EOKA, a paramilitary association against the British rule of Cyprus. It's 1956 and Hal has never seen action, so he takes this post eagerly wanting to put in practise everything he's learnt in the base. His wife Clara and their two baby daughters join him in Cyprus after two months and while she struggles to "fit in" and make a home out of this foreign place, Hal and his men start their duty searching for suspects and interrogating them trying to prevent more terrorist attacks.As weeks go by, Hal starts to realise that what seemed to be an under control situation is in fact a constant strain between what's morally right and wrong and when he finally dares to speak about it to his superiors he is disappointed in the unfairness of the system and the detached coldness he finds in some of his men.An escalating tension is starting to build up in him, a tension which will affect his relationship with Clara and his daughters, a small war within himself and another one with his family, and a foreboding feeling engulfs the reader as the story advances. This is not a novel to take lightly and Sadie Jones makes an excellent job out of it. Like in her previous novel, The Outcast (which is one of my favourites ever), she manages to create real characters with human conflicts and faults and to portray convincing relationships between them without the need of excessive dialogue. In this book, the images described and the silences tell you all you need to know. No flourishing, no superfluous conversations, just raw feelings and impotence and guilt. And an important message, there are no winners in wars, and no good or bad men, only humans trying to cope with life the best they can and dealing with the consequences of their own actions. Sad, but true.You'll find yourself swallowing compulsively while reading on and wondering how a story like this can have a happy ending.But like life, this book is full of surprises, and not all of them sour.If you're undecided, just pick it up and start reading, you will forget about the rest.
  • (3/5)
    I enjoyed The Outcast and liked this too, but I think I enjoyed The Outcast more. The pacing seemed a bit off, going very slowly for a long time, then wildly speeding up. I expect that it was necessary to getting the plot to work, but felt that there were long stretches of unexplored relationships and nothing really happening. Not bad, I just feel the author has more in her.
  • (3/5)
    I was a little disappointed by this book. I liked the idea of exploring what happens when Clara accompanies her British soldier husband Hal to Cyprus during the emergency, with their twin daughters, and focusing on the way in which this puts their relationship under pressure. I particularly liked the idea that the story would focus on the ‘small wars’ ‘fought’ on the domestic front. I can’t put my finger on the reason why I didn’t like this as much as I expected I would – the story was solid and the dilemmas faced by Hal and Clara realistic and poignant, with disconcerting contemporary parallels. However, I just felt detached from the characters. I wasn’t drawn me into the story and I couldn’t share their concerns to the extent that I had hoped, and so the book had less impact on me than it otherwise could have.
  • (4/5)
    I loved 'The Outcast' and once I started reading 'Small Wars' I knew she'd not let me down with the follow-up. I adore the way she writes, my only criticism of this was that it did fizzle a bit at the end in terms of plot. Without wishing to give anything away, often you know what you wish would happen as an ending and usually it never does and the tension there makes it interesting even if its frustrating. This kind of ended exactly how one would wish but instead of being satisfying, it was a little bit of a let-down. Still loved it though, but perhaps only 4/5.
  • (4/5)
    Small Wars is the story of Hal and Clara Treherne. Hal, a career soldier, is transferred from Germany to Cyprus in 1956, and Clara moves with him. Together with their twin toddlers, the Trehernes adjust to life in Cyprus, where Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots are at odds, and the colonial British are trying to keep the peace. Small acts of terrorism are the only battle Hal and his men see, and while he seems to initially enjoy his part in this "small war", Clara is constantly afraid - of terrorists, of the Cypriots, and of her increasingly distant husband.As Clara and Hal's marriage fractures, so too does the safe world of the army base. Davis, a translator with a wavering moral code, sees atrocities about which he cannot keep silent. The corruption of the British Army is exposed to Hal, and he struggles to remain faithful. Tensions in Cyprus escalate, causing even more tension at home, and Clara and Hal's love is tested in horrible ways.Like her first novel, The Outcast, Jones' Small Wars is less than cheerful. Clara and Hal are characters living in a war zone - both physically and emotionally. Their thoughts are a jumbled mess of dark feelings and heavy moral issues, and the light moments in their lives are few and far between. However, they are very real in how they come to terms with their daily battles, and I was swept up in their fight to keep their love alive.Underneath the relationship of Clara and Hal is a very strong anti-war message. Jones draws parallels between the Cypriot "terrorists" and the British soldiers, and these comparisons are anything but flattering. Much of what she says through her exploration of this small war can be applied to conflicts raging today, and I felt as though the purpose of her writing is just as much about shedding light on the present as it is on the past. This message was a bit heavy-handed for my taste, at times.Through all this rather intense material, Jones' prose shines. She is especially skilled at making characters' emotions jump off the page, and her descriptions of Hal's reactions to battle are heart-wrenching. Small Wars was a moving piece of fiction, one I highly recommend.
  • (4/5)
    This is a great read. I didn't know much about the British occupation of Cyprus in the 1950s leading up to the Suez crisis, so I found the historical aspect fascinating. Hal Treherne is a young British officer anxious to distinguish himself. He and his wife Clara with their twin baby girls live in a small army base about 3 hours from Nicosia. But life in Cyprus in the heat of the emergency is an ugly place and the skirmishes with the locals are bloody and brutal as Britain desperately tries to hold on to this strategic island. Hal is troubled by the atrocities he has witnessed and Clara is frightened and lonely as Hal withdraws from the relationship. Whe tragedy strikes, Hal and Clara face a shocking personal crisis. This is a great story.
  • (4/5)
    Images of torture and terror from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo have slid across our tv screens, jumped out of newspapers and magazines, and peppered conversations over the past number of years. How, we wonder, did we come to this, this unacceptable and horrifying state of affair? Has civilization broken down so badly that we can turn a blind eye to this sort of thing unless, and only unless, it is thrust into our common consciousness? Surely tacit approval was not granted. We can not have so lost our moral compass, especially compared to the civilized and relatively humane generations who have waged war before us, can we? Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Not that we have gone so misguided, but that the generations before us weren't just as ruthless and willing to step over the line. War is hell in more ways than one and its damages can be counted in far more than casualty numbers. Loss of innocence, moral breakdown, and silent complicity are all terrible, soul destroying by-products that have been a part of war as long as war has been a part of mankind.Major Hal Treherne is posted to Cyprus during the 1950's and is joined by his wife Clara and their twin toddler daughters. His war is not to be the enormous consuming war of their fathers, World War II, instead, his war is to be the small war of waning colonialism on this tiny island so vital to the Middle East. He is mostly happy with his command although he longs for more important action than sweeping the local villages for EOKA terrorists. Eventually this vague dissatisfaction starts to seep into his heretofore charmed marriage. Meanwhile, his wife Clara must master herself and her fears about this posting and perhaps her very unsuitability to be an army wife, only relaxing once the family is safely housed on base.But isolated, violent events occur to shatter the false sense of security for the Treherne family and Hal and Clara react diametrically opposite to each other in the face of these disturbing happenings. At first Hal is exhilerated and blind to Clara's fear and feelings. As he learns more though, Hal's conception of duty and his sense of right and wrong are tested beyond endurance. He is torn between his duty to his country and the men with whom he serves and his own conscience and as he struggles, his life with Clara erodes and becomes unrecognizable until both halves of him, public and private are at the breaking point.This is a fascinating look at the psychological strain of war and how essentially good people react to it. It counts the damage to intimacy and goodness. Jones allows her characters to judge the scenes they see and hear about without much authorial intrusion at all. Her characters are strong, even when they are crumbling, and they illustrate the timelessness of those news pieces that reach us and so horrify us today. The writing is tight and well-done. The tension slowly grows as the story continues but it grows unevenly, as it would in war: longer stretches of less watchfulness interspersed with brief bursts of pulse-pounding events. The characters are easy to sympathize with as they wrestle with their duties and desires. All in all, a sensitive and powerful story and one I'd highly recommend.
  • (5/5)
    Hal Trehene is an officer in the British military. Bright, motivated, and moving up in the ranks, he is eager for battle but finds himself instead on Cyprus where the bright blue skies and inviting waters seem very far from war. When Hal’s wife, Clara, joins him there with their twin daughters, the mood on Cyprus is becoming tense and the rumblings of violence are growing louder. The EOKA – an anti-colonial, anti-imperialist nationalist organization – has begun to commit terrorist acts against the British military and their families in an effort to liberate Cyprus from British rule. Hal finds himself on the cusp of war where loyalty to one’s country may conflict with one’s inner moral compass.Small Wars, Sadie Jone’s elegant second novel, is set during a difficult time in British history. The EOKA, led by George Grivas, focused their efforts against the British military, but the conflict was decidedly political and attracted front page headlines. The EOKA campaign lasted until March 1959 and was defined by terrorism, brutality, and the deaths of not only military personnel, but civilians as well. The guerilla methods of EOKA have been widely studied as an example of anti-colonial, national-liberation struggles in a period of decolonization. Into this volatile mix, Jones places her characters: the reserved and proper Hal who thinks he is prepared for war, but finds himself struggling with a type of post-traumatic stress; and the lovely Clara, who wants to support her husband but begins to feel as though she does not really know him.This introspective novel is really about the impact of war on relationships and our sense of identity. Hal struggles with the moral decisions he is forced to make. He finds himself torn between doing the “right thing” and doing what he must do to support the military’s agenda and ultimately his country. Unable to communicate his vulnerability and fears to Clara, he instead erects an emotional wall against her which further isolates him. Clara struggles with being the good, military wife and mother while finding herself more and more alone in a dangerous situation. Neither character communicates effectively, leaving room for misunderstanding, anger, and an escalation of their own fears.Sadie Jones is adept at getting beneath the skin of her characters. The tension in the novel is subtle, but as events begin to escalate, the reader’s unease and anxiety begins to parallel that of the characters. As in Jones’ previous novel, The Outcast (read my review), the characters are flawed, their relationship with each other seeming almost too damaged to be mended – and yet, in the end, Jones allows for the idea of redemption and leaves the reader a glimmer of hope for a happy future.Small Wars is a gem of a novel – carefully constructed with an understated, yet elegant, plot. The historical background and geographical setting lend themselves well to the overarching theme of the small internal wars we fight to remain whole in the face of disaster. Readers of historical fiction will find this novel a compelling look at the struggle against colonial rule, and the men and women who found themselves in the middle of it.Highly recommended.
  • (4/5)
    Small wars is the story of Hal and Clara Treherne and their two daughters. Hal is an ambitious soldier, on the brink of a great career who at this point has seen little action. He is posted to Cyprus, a man with high ideals and standards, and after a time his wife and daughters join him. This is the story of their time in Cyprus and the effects on their family. As time goes on Clara become more unhappy and more unsettled in Cyprus and is more afraid for their safety. As time goes on and Hal witnesses atrocities, and sees that actions don't always have the consequences he expects, he too becomes more unsettled and grows more distant from Clara as he does not feel able to share anything of what is happening to him with her, The inevitable crisis point comes. I loved the title of this book - the small wars - to me it illustrated the small conflicts in relationships set against the greater troubles in Cyprus. I found it very interesting and absorbing and it gave insight to another period in history that I knew little about. It painted a detailed picture of what life in the military could be like for both the husband and the wife and the effects it could have on their relationshop. A book well worth a read.
  • (5/5)
    Small Wars tells the story of Hal Treherne and his wife, Clara, in 1956. Hal is a young, enthusiastic soldier in the British Army, poised to quickly rise in the ranks due to his commitment, responsibility, and intelligence. Clara and Hal also have two baby daughters, Lottie and Meg. Hal is stationed in Cyprus, a British colony in a state of confusion and simmering rebellion, and after taking time to get settled Clara and the girls join him. Although Clara knows what is expected of an army wife, she finds that Hal is growing increasingly distant towards her as he experiences atrocities and begins to see the shades of grey that he never imagined when he was being trained. I found Small Wars to be an extremely engaging, interesting read. The time period and setting were fascinating, as was Hal's transition as time passed and he moved further from enthusiastic but inexperienced to battle hardened and questioning. Another strength in Small Wars is the cast of smaller players, from the Cypriots who Clara and Hal encounter to the other soldiers and their families. Small Wars is at its best when it reveals the struggles of a family and the effects of war on one small family.
  • (1/5)
    Very disappointed by this book it didn't seem to get anywhere very slow and very dull
  • (5/5)
    I got this out of the library after demolishing her first book, The Outcast, in almost one sitting. This is a very different book, but equally good. The claustrophobic atmosphere of army life is well captured, and the writing is superb. The scene on the beach with the horses will stay with me for a long time. I'm also really impressed with how well Sadie Jones gets into the minds of her characters, which makes the ending, when the husband does something so out of character feel like a real shock. All in all excellent reading.
  • (4/5)
    young family he ambitious, earnest, she strong and grounded, travel to strange and brutal land in pursuit of career advancement. He is brutalised and overcome by the environment and his own reaction to it. Her similarly. Thoughtful, provocative, great read.
  • (4/5)
    Sadie Jones uses a forgotten guerilla uprising, the Cypriot revolt against British rule, as a means to make a rather heavy-handed statement about war, the military machine, and colonialism that resounds in the "small wars" being fought today in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hot spots. Jones focuses on the isolation of and between a young couple, Clara and Hal Traherne, to make her points about the dehumanization wrought by the struggle for world power. Clara, a bit pampered yet willing to play the military wife and follow her husband first to Germany, then to Cyprus, seems completely unprepared for life in a war zone. Hal, on the other hand, acts around Clara as if everything is perfectly fine, unable or unwilling to share his experiences and discounting her fears. By the time a personal tragedy hits, their lives have already been changed and their marriage may be beyond repair (although Jones does hint at a reconciliation in the end).While I enjoyed Small Wars, the characters here lacked the depth of those in her first novel, The Outcast. Several secondary characters, like the literature-loving translator with an inconvenient moral streak but not much backbone, and the shopaholic officer's wife who befriends Clara in Nicosia, are never fully realized, and even Hal and Clara are a bit flat. Perhaps Jones's obvious desire to send us an antiwar message overwhelmed some of the finer elements of plot and character here. Still, I'd recommend the book to anyone wanting to know more about life in the 1950s, particularly for a young military family in a "small war" zone.
  • (3/5)
    Sadie Jones has a way of producing page-turners, and if this book is less compelling than The Outcast I would still have found it hard to put down, but all the same it was in many ways less than satisfying. The writing was very uneven with some lovely phrases rubbing shoulders with paragraphs that read like a first draft in need of editorial revision. The tale of the young couple who become estranged by war is essentially a good one, but I found it hard to relate to either of the main characters whose complete inability to communicate became increasingly infuriating as the plot progressed. Perhaps they were too similar in their acceptance of circumstances to create the necessary dynamic. The ending, although suggesting reconciliation, did nothing to dispel the impasse in which the husband Hal (if anything better realised than his wife) found himself. Minor characters verged on the stereotypical and the translator who might have become the wife’s lover was unsympathetic and underwritten. That said, the period feel is nicely evoked and the theme of an army in a policing role had a topical feel.
  • (5/5)
    In Small Wars, the second novel by Sadie Jones, Jones explores the impact of “small wars” on countries, citizens, servicemen and their loved ones. When you read a novel by Jones, you expect an intensive read. Small Wars is exactly that – a novel that keeps you thinking about its characters long after finishing the book.Hal Treherne is a young major in the British Army. He comes from a family whose men held distinguished careers in the army, fighting in great English wars throughout history. Hal has no war to fight, until he is stationed in Cyprus, a nation whose interest to England becomes exceedingly higher as the conflict in the Suez Canal erupts in nearby Egypt. Cyprus had a small war of its own, trying to break free of British rule. The country’s desire for independence resulted in terrorist activity, and Hal finally gets the war he’s been trained for. However, it’s not the war of his father or grandfather. There are no trenches, fronts or battlefields. Instead, it’s house-to-house searches, land mines and torture. Hal learns that he’s not emotionally equipped for this type of warfare and begins to question his service in the army.Meanwhile, Hal’s wife Clara arrives in Cyprus with their twin daughters, and tries to create a life in this tumultuous country. At the beginning of the book, you sense a deep love between the couple. However, as conditions sour in Cyprus and Hal becomes traumatized by its events, you watch as this marriage crumbles. They fail to talk to each other, and Hal takes out the atrocities of the war on his wife. He eventually arranges for Clara’s departure to a “safer” part of Cyprus, but in a country involved in a small war, there are no safe havens. Eventually, Clara and Hal face an enormous tragedy that will make or break their marriage.I was unaware of this portion of British history, and I found that Jones’ research about Cyprus during the 1950’s to be enlightening. I couldn’t help but draw parallels from the small war in Cyprus to those being fought in countries throughout the world today. The places have changed, but the lessons have not. I applaud Jones for tackling this sensitive subject and for doing so in such a provocative way. I would recommend Small Wars to those readers who enjoy reading intense fiction or books focused on military history. It’s a book that will leave its fingerprint on me for a long time.
  • (5/5)
    "Small Wars" is set in Cyprus in the late 1950s. Hal is a rising star in the British Army. His wife Clara has just come to live with him on base with their twin toddlers. Slowly the tension in Cyprus starts to grate on both Clara and Hal, as well as their once rock solid relationship. A series of events leads them to question both their marriage and Hal's career, exposing the unanticipated costs of small wars. This novel was excellent. From the very first page I was drawn into the world of the British military in the post-war era that Clara and Hal inhabit. Jones does an excellent job of depicting Cyprus and the simmering tension in the streets that slowly works its way into Clara and Hal's life and relationship. Some of the military scenes are brutal, but Jones does a fantastic job of balancing them with strong emotional content between her two main characters. As I was reading this novel I couldn't help but think about the insurgent wars that are being fought in our world today, and the parallels between the emotional costs in the novel and of our soldiers today. If you are looking for some excellent literary fiction, I can't recommend Small Wars enough.
  • (4/5)
    The setting is 1950's England and Cyprus. Hal Treherne meets and falls in love with Clara just before entering the service. Initially they are sent to Germany where Hal distinguishes himself and quickly rises up in the ranks becomming a major by the time he's thirty. There is a disturbance on the British held island of Cyprus and Hal is sent there. This "small war" introduces Hal to the "small horrors" of war. Hal, while trying to do his job and keep a stiff upper lip finds sleep hard to come by, and more and more he pushes away the one person who vowed to stay with him in good times and bad.I was so looking forward to this novel after having loved The Outcast. Sadie Jones is a good novelist unfortunatly this book didn't have the emotional pull and inpact of her first. "Small Wars" was at it's best when depicting the brutality and horror, but the characters felt flat. I'll hope for better next time.
  • (4/5)
    Set in 1956 in Cyprus during one of the “small wars” that the British fought after World War II, this novel focuses on the story of Hal Treherne, a major in the British army who is posted to Cyprus. His wife and their two small daughters join him there. Amid the violence and fighting against EOKA (Ethniki Organosis Kypriou Agonistou), Hal and Clara find that their relationship suffers.It’s very difficult to review a novel such as this one. Small Wars is a character-driven novel. It’s an intriguing look at the war a war, even a small one, can have such a strong psychological impact on someone who is conditioned to withstand it. The novel is often bleak; danger and even death are imminent in this novel. And yet the military action is such a strong contrast to the activities of the British colonists (their club in Nicosia and life on the military base, for example). This novel is a beautiful evocation of a time and place. It’s an emotionally draining read; and while I would have liked for the ending of the book to be less drawn-out, I really enjoyed this novel. I’m looking forward to reading more from Sadie Jones, especially her first novel, The Outcast.At the end of the book, Sadie Jones lists a website on the “small wars” that the British fought in the last half of the 20th century: britainssmallwars.com. It’s an excellent introduction to the time period for someone who doesn’t know much about it.
  • (4/5)
    In the day and a half since I finished “Small Wars”, I’ve spent more time going over the events and characters than when I was actually reading the book. As this novel was unfolding, I had such a sense of dread as to what the final results might be, that I had to set it aside a few times just to take a break.Hal and Clara Treherne are the main characters of “Small Wars” – a book set in the mid-1950s, but who live out a story that could be, and probably is, taking place today. It’s a story about war, about winning a war – even when “winning” has been poorly defined, and even when the costs may be even greater to the victor than to the vanquished.This story is so sad, and so real…it’s been haunting me. Soldiers and their families are going through these very experiences as I write this. The brutality of war, the isolation of a foreign language and culture, the crippling doubt of what is right and what is wrong in a time of war…and trying to reconcile the person one must become to withstand war with the person one is to one’s family.It’s a story about how much a person can accept under extreme circumstances – both in actions taken and things experienced – while still holding on to one’s soul.“He was left on his own then to sleep, but confined by physical pain and the shame of his weakness, he didn’t sleep. In the dark part of the night, after the moon had gone and before the sun came up, he died. He died of a heart-attack, which couldn’t have been prevented, and perhaps was nobody’s fault, but it was a very lonely death, and fearful.”Hal, the textbook 1950’s British soldier, is stationed in Cypress and brings his wife Clara and their twin daughters with him. The transformation he undergoes there, and the effect it has on his wife and their relationship, is devastating.He witnesses death and incredible brutality – some of which takes hold of him – and every part of the world he thought he knew, changes. There is another character whose storyline is parallel to his, a British soldier named Davis, and the similarity between what they experience and the difference in the choices they make provide some surprises in the book.“Davis was surprised that his capacity for dread and disgust had not diminished. The boy was kept awake, standing, for hours at a time, and with each interrogation, seeing his deterioration, Davis jumped through the same hoops in the circus of his mental process. Steeped in shame, he condemned himself, but always, in the back of his mind, the thought: This is still within the realms of acceptable. If something really bad were to happen, I’d do something.” “..He clung to the notion that he had a limit, that his threshold lay somewhere, uncrossed and ready to save him, if only he were given the opportunity.”Words like “acceptable”, “something really bad”, and “limits” are ones that are relatively easy to define in the everyday world. In the world of war, those words are so questionable as to be useless. The same is true for people and their actions. Ones we meet on a daily basis can be more clearly described. People encountered during wartime…do their words and actions matter more as we try to determine if they are friend or foe? Or simply the uniform they wear or the side for which they fight? “This place was nothing like the churches he knew and yet it was familiar to him – uncomfortably so: the familiarity seemed to find him out, unpeel the layers of him, a feeling that was too sharp for comfort.”“Small Wars” will remain on my mind for a long time to come. Not only did it make me think even more about the men and women whose life it describes…but about myself. What would I do? How would I react under the extreme fear, or hatred or shame? How might I change and what boundaries might I cross?What layers of myself might I find?