Friday 6 November 2020

Book Review: Soldiers by Tom Remiger

Tom Remiger 

Publisher: Text Publishing 
Publication date: 1st September 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction / War
Pages: 240
Format read: Paperback
Source: Won
About the book
Breen sometimes thought sourly that Tiger Jackson would have made a good fascist. He told unreliable stories, he liked power and admiration, and he had all three military virtues- self-belief, luck, and an eye for the main chance. Despite all this, Breen liked him. Somehow it was impossible not to.

After the death of Corporal Daniel Cousins in what is apparently a training accident, a young officer, Lieutenant Breen, becomes obsessed by the case. Was Cousins murdered by one of his own?
Breen's investigation, as well as his unanticipated love affair with a superior officer, threatens the unity of his comrades as they wait for the suffering to come in the Battle of Crete-one of the defining encounters of World War II.

My review
Opening in 1940, Soldiers follows a group of New Zealand soldiers as they are sent to England for training then to Egypt and Crete defending these areas against the ever advancing German army.
In this compassionate, yet fierce, story Tom Remiger puts emphasis on the different personalities of the soldiers and how they cope with the conditions and each other's company.
At the start of the book I was a little lost as the characters were at times called by their first name or last name or even a nickname. It seemed like their were more characters to keep track of than there actually were. However, as the story moves on the names all slot in and the story became easier to follow.
Remiger deftly describes the long tedious days of waiting and the terrible conditions the soldiers endured. His characters are real! They are at times not as brave as they would like to be. They get along and they fight. Sometimes they are best friends and at others they hate each other, begging for space.
We follow these characters as they change from men to soldiers.
Underlying this story of man and war  is a compassionate story of devotion as Lt Patrick Breen becomes aware of his feelings for Captain  Sinclair. Breen is a gentle soul although many of his fellow soldiers thought he had a wildness about him. He becomes obsessed with the accidental death of one of the soldiers in their company. This obsession soon leads to paranoia and he sees motive in many of his fellow soldiers.

Soldiers is a moving story and not like the usual WWII stories I read full of killing and bravado. Remiger has dug into the soul of his soldiers to reveal their true feelings and fears. When the fighting comes, some will rise to the occasion whilst others will fall.

About the author

Photo: Text Publishing
Tom Remiger is the name under which Tom McLean writes fiction. He is originally from Rotorua, New Zealand, but now lives in the UK, where he is completing a DPhil in literature at Oxford. His non-fiction and academic writing have been published in a number of journals and magazines. Soldiers won the 2019 Michael Gifkins Prize.

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