Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker
The Last Word Review
Brutal yet compassionate book on modern warfare. One that will stay with the reader long after its finish
Writing about the brutality of modern warfare is no easy feat when trying to capture the reader. What Harry Parker has done with his debut novel Anatomy of a Solider is take this to the next level and see the brutality through 45 objects.
Harry Parker a veteran of tours in Iraq and Afghanistan writes about a fictional soldier Captain Tom Barnes serial number BA5799 who we find out very early is going to be seriously injured by an IED.
Writing about these forty-five objects that include the tourniquet, a bag of fertilizer, a beer glass, a drone, dog tags, a mobile phone, a kit bag, the IED itself a helmet, even a snowflake each item will narrate to the reader its part in the human suffering in warfare. Captain Tom Barnes loses both legs to the roadside IED (Improvised Explosive Device). It is a highly charged and brutal account of what takes place. It holds nothing back from the reader from the very start, uncompromising and dramatic in its detail.
With each object talking in the first person it is a brave first novel that only a skilful writer can pull so it is pleasing to see that Harry Parker successfully manages to turn this into a moving and captivating first novel when you realise it is a grim personal reality of a novel after Harry Parker while serving in Afghanistan was badly wounded losing both legs. In a recent interview he said ‘I stepped on a bomb’
From serving soldier to amputee is the true heart of this story and when one part of the story is told by a bed after Tom returns home from hospital and the sudden realisation of the sheer horror of what has happened hits home and Tom breaks down in tears is heart-breaking and is more autobiographical in its telling.
It would have been so easy to write an account of the sheer brutality of war but writing about the items that in essence surround takes on more uniquely if chilling aspect through each of the forty-five objects.
Many historical accounts of warfare are black and white in their approach but Harry Parker after taking a writing course funded by the army does not fall into this in any way and it is both brave and bold in its approach to life in the field and then staring total reality in the face on returning to the family home and facing rehabilitation and then facing the future. Anatomy of a Soldier is one man’s journey of survival and how it affects everyone around him.
My thanks to Kate McQuaid at Faber & Faber for a review copy.
Anatomy of a Soldier written by Harry Parker and publishes by Faber and Faber on 25 February and is available through all good bookshops.