A new novel by the author Julian Barnes called "one of the best British writers to emerge in the last decade"
Set in North Africa and Sicily at the end of World War II, In the Wolf's Mouth follows the Allies' botched "liberation" attempts as they chased the Nazis north toward the Italian mainland. Focusing on the experiences of two young soldiers--Will Walker, an English fiA new novel by the author Julian Barnes called "one of the best British writers to emerge in the last decade"
Set in North Africa and Sicily at the end of World War II, In the Wolf's Mouth follows the Allies' botched "liberation" attempts as they chased the Nazis north toward the Italian mainland. Focusing on the experiences of two young soldiers--Will Walker, an English field security officer, ambitious to master and shape events; and Ray Marfione, a wide-eyed Italian American infantryman--the novel contains some of the best battle writing of the past fifty years. Eloquent on the brutish, blundering inaccuracy of war, the immediacy of Adam Foulds's prose is uncanny and unforgettable. The book also explores the continuity of organized crime in Sicily through the eyes of two men--Angilù, a young shepherd; and Cirò Albanese, a local Mafioso. These men appear in the prologue and in the book's terrifying final chapters, making it evident that the Mafia were there before and are there still, the slaughter of war only a temporary distraction. In the Wolf's Mouth has achieved an extraordinary resurrection, returning humanity to the lives lost in the writing of history....more
Hardcover, 323 pages
June 3rd 2014
by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
(first published February 6th 2014)
I had expected to see a lot of fiction about the First World War in 2014, but it seems like every other new novel I pick up is set in or around the Second World War. There's nothing wrong with that, and I've read enough WW2 fiction to know there are as many stories as there were participants, but still, a novel needs to bring something fresh to the genre to have any impact. And on that score, Foulds only half succeeds. The parts of the novel devoted to Will, the British Field Security Officer, aI had expected to see a lot of fiction about the First World War in 2014, but it seems like every other new novel I pick up is set in or around the Second World War. There's nothing wrong with that, and I've read enough WW2 fiction to know there are as many stories as there were participants, but still, a novel needs to bring something fresh to the genre to have any impact. And on that score, Foulds only half succeeds. The parts of the novel devoted to Will, the British Field Security Officer, and his work in Sicily where the Mafia are quietly filling the power vacuum is fascinating and - to me at least - a fresh perspective. The quotes from 'Wind in the Willows' that Foulds works in are well-judged and work beautifully, and even when Foulds introduces a scene that you think you've read many times before (the ubiquitous visit to a prostitute) he manages to breathe new life into it.
Unfortunately, the focus of the novel is divided between Will and Ray, an Italian-American soldier with dreams of becoming a Hollywood director, and this character is definitely the novel's weak link - Ray is almost a cliché, a character we've seen countless times before, and who never truly comes to life. Another problem for me were the 100 pages or so set in North Africa: where Foulds evokes the Sicilian towns and countryside so well, his North Africa could be anywhere; there is no sense of place whatsoever. This section also contains a lot of battle writing, but I found it lacking: it felt (perhaps understandably) second hand, with one chapter told in broken lines and scattered words that seemed like a writer's attempt to mimic the hand-held camera work of 'Saving Private Ryan' or 'Band of Brothers' rather than trying to imagine himself in that situation.
For me it was very much a novel of two halves, saved by some excellent writing, especially in the sections devoted to Will and the Sicilian characters, and a perfect final line. ...more
Reading Adam Foulds’s new novel In the Wolf’s Mouth, I was reminded of literary movements like Oulipo, which explored the concept of ‘potential literature’.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s not that the novel is particularly experimental. It’s the ‘potential’ aspect that stuck in my head. In the world of Oulipo and others, the emphasis was more on the creation of new possibilities, rather than the actual execution of those ideas. In the Wolf’s Mouth is in some ways a potential novel. It sets up a scenariReading Adam Foulds’s new novel In the Wolf’s Mouth, I was reminded of literary movements like Oulipo, which explored the concept of ‘potential literature’.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s not that the novel is particularly experimental. It’s the ‘potential’ aspect that stuck in my head. In the world of Oulipo and others, the emphasis was more on the creation of new possibilities, rather than the actual execution of those ideas. In the Wolf’s Mouth is in some ways a potential novel. It sets up a scenario involving multiple characters and storylines, and then leaves those narratives deliberately unconnected, the potential deliberately unfulfilled. It’s a deliberate choice, and there are very clear reasons for it, making it an interesting book to read and think about.
First, a word on those different narratives. We start with two rural Sicilians in pre-war Sicily, and then switch for the bulk of the book to the stories of two young Allied soldiers in World War II. Italian-American infrantryman Ray Marfione marches across Italy, watches his friends die, and gets badly lost, both spiritually and geographically, while English intelligence officer Will Walker blunders ineffectually across North Africa and Italy.
These characters, Ray and Will, constantly threaten to become protagonists, but never actually do. They lurch from place to place, constantly at the mercy of unseen forces.
Will tries to take bold action, but is frustrated by incompetent and cowardly superior officers. In north Africa, for example, he wants to hold the French colonial government accountable for imprisoning local people in a filthy underground pit called the ‘fish pond’. But his captain talks evasively of the balance of power, and tells him to write up a report. Later, he makes negotiations with local leaders to have the area join the British Empire, but is told that the British are pulling out.
As for Ray, he spends most of the war watching people get maimed and blown up. He threatens to have a deep friendship with a fellow soldier, but they are separated. He hides out in the house of a local Italian prince, and almost has an affair with the prince’s daughter.
The only people who are real protagonists are those rural Sicilians we met right at the beginning – Angilu and Ciro, a shepherd and a Mafioso. Their lives are intertwined, even though one of them goes to America and back, and it’s these two who meet again at the end of the book, with dramatic consequences.
The British and the Americans, on the other hand, are just passing through. Ray and Will both meet the prince for whom Angilu now works, and Will threatens to have Ciro arrested, but they have little real impact on the world of the people whose country they’ve invaded. This is a story that belongs to the local people, not the invaders, just as the land belonged to them before, and will continue to belong to them long after the armies and tanks have departed.
By telling us so much of Ray and Will’s story, and then depriving us of the central role I came to expect of them, Foulds at first left me a little disappointed at the ending, but then when I thought about it some more, I saw what he had done and why he had done it.
It’s a clever strategy, although not without risk: the Daily Mail reviewer concluded that the book lacked narrative drive, and thought that “another draft might have made it a whole lot better.”
I can see why he thought that, but I think Foulds probably went through many drafts, and shaped his story very carefully and deliberately to portray war in the way he saw it. The end result was a book that gave me a fresh perspective on a very old conflict, which I think is something of an achievement....more
Focuses on two very different soldiers: Ray, an innocent Italian American infantryman and the very different Will, an ambitious officer, speaks Arabic and overestimates his importance in war. North Africa, 1942 Heavy battle scenes especially where Ray involved. I found them repetitive and little boring but that may be that I’ve read too many. Powerful sense of futility of war and blunders costing too many lives. Some very sensitive scenes of camaraderie. Empathised more with Will's travails.
The n Focuses on two very different soldiers: Ray, an innocent Italian American infantryman and the very different Will, an ambitious officer, speaks Arabic and overestimates his importance in war. North Africa, 1942 Heavy battle scenes especially where Ray involved. I found them repetitive and little boring but that may be that I’ve read too many. Powerful sense of futility of war and blunders costing too many lives. Some very sensitive scenes of camaraderie. Empathised more with Will's travails.
The novel starts in Sicily in 1926 with Angilu, a young shepherd and Ciro Albanese, a mafioso, bound for America, and returns to Sicily with the Allied landings. Here the mafia still abound and revenge and punishment are the norm. And brutal. No-one sees anything. Redeeming part of this Sicilian travail is Ray’s adventure. As it says at the end ‘we were really lost’. In more than one sense. ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it,
click here.There is much to love about this book. For a war-themed novel, I liked it even more than “On Leave.” Foulds’ narrative is rich with detail. The imagery projected from the characters and their actions is vivid and compelling. And I can’t help but notice that Foulds’ work does an excellent job of capturing the extremes of war, sensitivity toward the horrors of war and the individual suffering of those victimized by it.
The two central characters, Ray and Will, work well enough on their own. And alThere is much to love about this book. For a war-themed novel, I liked it even more than “On Leave.” Foulds’ narrative is rich with detail. The imagery projected from the characters and their actions is vivid and compelling. And I can’t help but notice that Foulds’ work does an excellent job of capturing the extremes of war, sensitivity toward the horrors of war and the individual suffering of those victimized by it.
The two central characters, Ray and Will, work well enough on their own. And although I felt a little upset the neither characters crossed paths, I enjoyed seeing the evolution of these characters unfold throughout the narrative. Ray’s naiveté and unpreparedness for battle has it implications. You no longer see a Ray that fantasizes about his love for film and his cinematic heroes, but someone who goes headstrong into war only to come out of it broken and lost. I was a little worried that Ray would end up a caricature of the American solider, a one-dimensional stereotype, searching for conflict out of some jingoistic nostalgia used as a justification for his role in the allies’ occupation of Sicily. Instead we were given a character that is deeply flawed, sensitive, yet driven by his love for cinema.
The poetic nature of Foulds’ prose can be found among even the darkest, most chaotic moments of the book. I can’t help but think back on the battle scene that leaves Ray separated from some of his companions, including George. The character’s reactions to battle scenes seem to reflect the chaotic, jumbled structure of Foulds’ depictions, “This was the worst ever. It couldn’t get worse than this. The noise, emplaced guns, planes ripping over, guns, single shots, bursts, everything. From different heights. The ground surging up ahead.” Ray’s point of view is disorienting, pulling the reader into the experience. With so much going on from explosions to screaming to gunfire, it feels difficult to keep track of everything, yet I can’t help but feel that this was intentional. I would imagine that being in a situation such as this, one would feel lost and helpless, with the only course of action being to run.
The fragility of life is beautifully represented during the German’s artillery attack. As established earlier, Foulds has a way with words. From Ray’s point of view, Foulds’ depiction of destruction feels personal and skin-deep, “He’d thought homes were as solidly consistent as prisms, definite places full of families, family odours, meals and arguments and objects. But they weren’t.” Foulds piggybacks off of Ray’s experience by closing the passage with metaphor that pulls the experience together in neat, yet haunting package, “Life was a skin: it could be peeled away like strips of wallpaper with its coherent pattern.”
On the other side of the allied forces, Foulds introduces us to Will, who seeks glory and honor in war but is forced into a diplomatic position. There is an interesting dynamic between Will and his father that is explored early on. His father, a WWI war hero, leaves Will with some innate desire to live up to the family name. Will comes off as more selfish compared to Ray. But he is not a man without honor and tradition, hence his initial refusal to lose his virginity to a prostitute. Will goes through his own personal transformation and begins to take his political role seriously. His association and sympathy toward local revolutionaries shows him in a more seriously light, leading to his meeting with the Bey of the country. Unfortunately Ray’s position in the war isn’t quite as comforting. Through Ray are shown psychological implications tied to war and conflict. He comes close to crossing paths with Will after being sheltered in secret by the Bey’s daughter, but nothing comes of it.
Mafioso Ciro Albanese is recruited by the American military and brought to the states to provide Intel that will help them defeat the Germans and the Italian fascists that have taken over Sicily. Through Ciro, we find ourselves with the villain of the narrative, to some extent. Although I find the central characters to be there own worst enemy, with the war being the ultimate catalyst, Ciro’s position as a Mafioso in America turned soldier carries a lot of weight not only for the narrative, but the allies’ position in the conflict. In a sense, I see the allies’ compliance with organized crime families a representation of the often thrown around cliché, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” I know it’s cliché, but it certainly applies here. Ciro and Angilou, who has essentially risen to power within the crime syndicate, are central to this relationship and it’s position in the war. That being said, it’s Ciro’s methods that highlight him as the penultimate villain. Ciro returns to Sicily determined to take back what he had lost, his family, leading to one of the most evil acts I have ever witnessed on paper.
The ending is rather dark and abrupt, but manages to close each characters arch rather well. No one is truly left with a happy ending. Ray does manage to gain back his insanity, but after all that he had been through, I can’t help but wonder if he feels like he has lost his sense of purpose. Will never gets the satisfaction of bringing in Ciro. Angilou, only to be killed by Ciro’s son, shoots Ciro beforehand. It’s a series of misfortune, selfish agendas, deceit that unfolds amid war and conflict that I find impactful if not for the idea that war is capable of corrupting those with good intentions and empowering those with bad. It’s a strong character study where the results feel justified in the end based on the actions of these characters.
One last note, I can’t help but wonder if Ray and Will were essentially placed in opposite roles. Ray was unprepared for war yet carried himself into it due to his naivety. He may have been better suited for the officer role, whereas Will wanted the satisfaction of being a war hero. He wanted action as opposed to being stuck with what he initially deemed as a police role. ...more
Foulds is one of the most precise novelists I've read in a long time--he seems always to find exactly the right word when most novelists would settle for second best and hurry on. Especially in a suspense-driven war novel like this one, alternating between brutal scenes of battle in north Africa and calmer scenes of semi-competent administration in secure areas. Especially fascinating were the parts that dealt with the allies' swift takeover of Sicily as they began their move north into Europe,Foulds is one of the most precise novelists I've read in a long time--he seems always to find exactly the right word when most novelists would settle for second best and hurry on. Especially in a suspense-driven war novel like this one, alternating between brutal scenes of battle in north Africa and calmer scenes of semi-competent administration in secure areas. Especially fascinating were the parts that dealt with the allies' swift takeover of Sicily as they began their move north into Europe, and then the aftermath in Sicily as some very sinister mafiosi began, like opportunistic viruses, to spread in a weakened host. I agree with another Goodreads reviewer that the American character Ray never really came alive, and that the British character Will was far more interesting. He believably blended youth, naivety, optimism, and insufferable British noblesse-oblige. Foulds has an uncanny ability to view things from alien points of view--including here that of an illiterate Sicilian shepherd whose sense of honor and duty forms a large part of the backbone of the book. Here's an example of Foulds's writing about the shepherd: "The day after that at sunset Angilu saw his mule twitch its ears forwards and lift its head. He looked across the valley to see a man approaching on horseback, the horse's big, jointed shadow moving over the stones in front of them as it snorted and laboured under the big man....(Angilu) sat still and waited. Finally Angilu looked up at the huge silhouette of horse and man right in front of him, the sword hanging from the guard's hip, the feathers on his hat bending in the wind. The horse shifted sideways a little, finding sockets for its hooves in the ground." That's the precision I mentioned. Sunset. Shadow in front of horse. Silhouette. You know exactly where the sun is and what the scene looks like. The description of the moving horse, the details of the size of the guard and his uniform, each with implications beyond itself. The whole book reads like that....more
Adam Foulds is such a skilled writer, I don’t even know where to begin. This might be the closest thing I've seen to a perfectly written book. As others have mentioned I could leave it for weeks, but once I picked it up I wanted to keep reading. All the chaos, people in the wrong jobs and lack of ethics was a brilliant and intentional display of what war is really like. Having never been there myself I wonder if war today is still as messy? Will and Ray’s narr Spoilers after the first paragraph
Adam Foulds is such a skilled writer, I don’t even know where to begin. This might be the closest thing I've seen to a perfectly written book. As others have mentioned I could leave it for weeks, but once I picked it up I wanted to keep reading. All the chaos, people in the wrong jobs and lack of ethics was a brilliant and intentional display of what war is really like. Having never been there myself I wonder if war today is still as messy? Will and Ray’s narratives were the perfect contrasting stories. I agree with others that they might have done better in each others jobs, which I think Foulds set up intentionally.
Will with his better and smarter than everybody attitude, where he is eventually proven impotent with the “fish bowl” and Ciro Albanese. And then there is his disgust at the prostitution for food, but he can’t maintain his high moral standard and goes there himself. Then strangely he continues on without any hint of guilt over his fall. A fascinating character. I feel like Will is meant to show the futility of trying to be the good man in the midst of war. I didn’t have any questioning of his motives like Jason mentioned, although the ego to state that he has claimed this area for England was a ridiculously egotistical thing to state. To think you can make a difference in the world and in the middle of a war would take quite an ego.
Then there is Ray. He perfectly displays the pointlessness of some(most, all?) roles in war. As a useless infantryman following tanks and seeing people blow up all around him and assuming he will die. Running blindly through the explosions and seeing a jaw blown off and land on him. Odd how his mental break comes after the fighting is done, when his new friend surprisingly blows up due to a mine or booby trapped truck. I guess it’s easier to deal with the carnage when you just expect to die at any moment. I found his mental break looking for mines in the attic brilliant.
I wished Will and Ray would meet and that some lose ends would have been tied up at the end, but neither would have really made sense. I mean the whole point of this book I think was the chaos, disorganization, immorality and destruction of lives that always comes with war. So of course there are no happy endings, but even an ending more settled would not make sense as well.
As others have mentioned, one of the most disturbing stories I’ve read in a while was the “love” triangle between Ciro Albanese, Teresa and Silva. Then also Angilu and Mattia getting sucked into it. The person I was most bothered by was Teresa. Ciro leaves her and sneaks off to America. Never sends for her or lets her know he’s alive. Then he shows back up and reclaims her. Maybe in that society she couldn’t do much, but to not at least let Silva know that Ciro is back in town and he plans to kill you was just pure evil. Her inaction made her complicit in the murder of her faithful husband in favor of the one who deserted her. Deciding not to act(or warn) was in fact an act of choosing Ciro over Silva. Perhaps she new that Silva would just freeze as he did. Silva puzzled me. Ciro gave him chances to escape or at least fight back and he did nothing. Then Angilu takes action and finally someone stands up to Ciro. Too bad he was so disorganized as to not defend himself from Mattia’s expected response. Fould’s even tells us he was not surprised by Mattia. Mattia brought a knife to a gun fight and won! Perhaps Angilu was expecting to die at the hands of Ciro’s friends at some point anyway. Would anything have driven Silva to fight back? Perhaps if he knew what a psycho Ciro would turn his son Mattia into he would have fought back?
What is the meaning of the title, anybody know? There was one small reference to some hallway that I didn’t understand that referenced “the Wolf’s mouth.”
So in conclusion, where would I rate this book? Due to how flawlessly this book was put together I just can't find a reason not to give it 5 starts. I can always find something to complain about, but not this time. Reminds me why the other book I read of his, the Quickening Maze, beat out Wolf Hall in my opinion the year they were both nominated for the Booker Prize. Makes me want to go read the rest of his books.
My favorite bits of writing in this book would be the way he described the explosions in the battle scenes, especially the last explosion that caused Ray's mental break and the one where his friends jaw is blown off. He perfectly paints the picture in your mind of what the scene would really feel like. Not just the look, but the feeling. ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it,
click here.While the prose itself struck me as considered and beautiful from the very first pages, I found the prologue less involving than the later sections, but once we're in pastoral England, with Will and his brother and mother and dogs, my ticket was punched. And in those first chapters about Will, I found myself admiring something other than Foulds's exquisite prose: the blunt, disarming knack he has for shocking readers with the unpredictabilities of life. The scene where Will's thoughtful war veteWhile the prose itself struck me as considered and beautiful from the very first pages, I found the prologue less involving than the later sections, but once we're in pastoral England, with Will and his brother and mother and dogs, my ticket was punched. And in those first chapters about Will, I found myself admiring something other than Foulds's exquisite prose: the blunt, disarming knack he has for shocking readers with the unpredictabilities of life. The scene where Will's thoughtful war veteran father simmers and snaps at the dinner table stunned me. I was unprepared for the brutal clarity of it all -- the sudden anachronistic vomiting alongside his chair, the strangeness which he (concussed) doesn't seem to quite register, his matter-of-facting his way to his study and promptly dying there. This was the moment where I gauged: I'm in the hands of a writer who really knows what he's doing, what he's capable of. From that point, I just marveled at how mercilessly honest Foulds proved to be in his portraiture of these characters:
Will's callous blindness in his treatment of his mother (for all his desire to emulate his father, he can't seem to treat with deference and respect the woman his father loved more than himself), not to mention his offensive insistence that the war be about his accomplishments ("Oh fuck difficulties. Do you see what I've done? I've won England a part of the world.") -- vanity disguising itself as honor.
Ray's gentle, almost mournful misapprehension of his own homosexuality.
The obliterating shell-shock in George (after combat forces him to renege on his conscience, after he witnesses the jawbone of his friend blown free of his friend's head and landing on his arm -- confronting him with a puzzle resisting all sense) and in Ray (when Gem explodes before him -- the twitchy ferreting paranoia that the attic in which Luisa hides him thereafter must be full of tripwires and mines).
Ray's conviction that the only way he can survive not knowing where George might be is to consider him -- this moral anchor in his life, this one person he has come to love amid all this horror and clamor -- dead already.
Angilu's and Teresa's inarticulate, crippling fear before the intimidating storm that is Ciro Albanese. (The scene where the latter kills Silvio is one of the most terrifying, monstrous scenes I've ever read.)
Mattia's inability to comprehend that he has come to idolize the man who murdered his father -- choosing fawning over self-loathing for such fawning.
It's really pretty miraculous how complex and messy these characters are given how spare and neat and elegant the writing is.
I also love how Foulds is unafraid of subverting the Western reliance on heroic mythmaking. He sees it for the rubbish consolation it is: Ray's squad drunkenly toasting their friends ("to fallen fucking heroes!") and Ray's dad, in letters, encouraging Ray to see himself and his fellows as heroes -- despite the unflattering reality that when confronted with surrendering enemy soldiers, they murder them. America, in particular, I think, has always fostered a kind of shameful self-love in its obsession with glossing over its sins, with championing cheap patriotism. Interestingly -- and likely by design -- Ray's love of cinema functions as a kind of commentary on this subject: most WWII movies during the war itself (to say nothing of the morale-boosting propaganda shorts appended to films at the time) were absurdly sanitized, interested less in commenting on the war than in making sure the American public would come out of the war believing its military forces unerringly ethical and honorable.
In the Wolf's Mouth also reminded me a great deal of one of my favorite books: Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient. They are the only two WWII-set novels I've read that take place in either Africa or Italy (both are set in both), and they are, curiously, both written by novelists who are as well known as poets. When considering these parallels (not to mention Hanna caring for Almasy in an abandoned villa boobytrapped with mines mirroring Luisa caring for Ray in an attic he is convinced must be boobytrapped with mines), I can't help but think Foulds might have looked to Ondaatje's novel as inspiration.
Lastly, I wanted to touch on the novel's treatment of prostitution:
The early scene featuring the teenage prostitute with whom Ray loses his virginity felt very rote -- like any of a dozen other scenes from books and films, with the opportunist kid using his sister's dignity and body as currency. It's not an uninteresting set-up (it does, after all, reveal an infrastructure of desperation within a world being rent apart by armies who have no business being there in the first place), but it is a bit too obvious. However, Foulds might have gone this direction to juxtapose the later scene (the startling, sickening tableau of women compelled to sell their bodies to literally feed themselves and their families, and the soldiers who value these women so little they seem to think nothing of the arrangement) against it, making the latter feel even more alien, even more nightmarish. That the soldiers paid with tins of food made it more poignant and tragic, I felt; that the shelled courtyard in which it transpired precluded even the illusion of intimacy made it feel even more cold, industrial, evil -- like a scene from a medieval image of Hell. I actually felt like that scene -- the orgiastic assembly lines of men trading food to fuck women -- was the most striking in the novel. And it further complicated and debased Will's character: his snooty contempt for the men participating giving way to his own appetites, his own lusts. In the hunt for the Fascists, Will becomes obsessed with the phrase "the eyes of a hypocrite" -- and I felt like someone should hand him a mirror. Every time Will is presented with an opportunity to do something with integrity, he makes a shambles of it: 1) he could connive a means of putting an end to the Fish Pond, but his insistence on going through proper channels has everything to do with his own glory and nothing whatsoever to do with restoring freedom and dignity to the local population, and 2) he could let his release of the girl given him as a gift be what it is -- an act of goodness, a pure expression of ethics -- but his masturbation afterward, with the girl in mind, turns her into a sexual object, and 3) his anxious refrain (need to find a tin of food...need to find a tin of food) pulling the rug from under the self-righteous contempt he feels for the men in line for sex.
All in all, In the Wolf's Mouth is a tremendous novel of geologic psychological strata. ...more
Don't waste your time. It started out promising but petered out as if the author couldn't figure out how to end it. Depressing and pointless; other than the description of the way in which the American military unfortunately collaborated with the Sicilian criminal element in America to scrub Sicily of the Fascist element; which resulted in strengthening the Mafia stranglehold and giving them a cover to settle old scores.
For some reason I've read more than my share of war fiction recently. This book stands out for its description of the affect of war on the innocents who live where troops fight. The side story of how the Mafia controlled Sicily and who was named as collaborators. A fascinating story, well told.
It was what it was. Like a sketch for a big blockbustery kind of thing which ran out of steam before it got started. Like a pilot for the tv series that won't happen. Foulds can write in a no nonsense kind of way, but this assemblage never moves more than the laptop keys.
Although the writing is superb, the author is definitely a word smith, the plot needs some work. This story is about Sicily during World War II, specifically when the Americans and British land. One sees the roots of the Mafia in this story.
Exceptional prose .....wonderful use of words....I did feel all that talent was wasted on what felt like a TV series...however, I look forward to reading more of his stuff. The pleasure of the words was enough.
I wanted to stop reading several times but kept thinking it had to get better. It didn't...and I shouldn't of wasted my time. There's very few books I feel this way about but this is one that never seemed to go anywhere.
Cool, slightly ennervated descriptions of extreme events. The level gaze is compelling, but makes the chief characters, especially Ray and Angilu, a bit distant and unknowable. Effortlessly graceful prose, and the descriptions are really vivid, but I ended up feeling most concern for Angilu's mule and his dog.
This is an intriguing and complex story set in North Africa and Sicily during the Second World War. A fractured and in places visceral narrative follows and eventually links four characters from different worlds through the chaos of war, and the politics of the aftermath. Powerful stuff.
Adam Foulds (born 1974) is a British novelist and poet.
He was educated at Bancroft's School, read English at St Catherine's College, Oxford under Craig Raine, and graduated with an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia in 2001. Foulds published The Truth About These Strange Times, a novel, in 2007. This won a Betty Trask Award. The novel, which is set in the present day, is conAdam Foulds (born 1974) is a British novelist and poet.
He was educated at Bancroft's School, read English at St Catherine's College, Oxford under Craig Raine, and graduated with an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia in 2001. Foulds published The Truth About These Strange Times, a novel, in 2007. This won a Betty Trask Award. The novel, which is set in the present day, is concerned in part with the World Memory Championships, and earned him the title of Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. The report of this in The Sunday Times included the information that he had previously worked as a fork-lift truck driver.
In 2008 Foulds published a substantial narrative poem entitled The Broken Word, described by the critic Peter Kemp as a "verse novella". It is a fictional version of some events during the Mau Mau Uprising. Writing in The Guardian, David Wheatley suggested that "The Broken Word is a moving and pitiless depiction of the world as it is rather than as we might like it to be, and the terrible things we do to defend our place in it". The book was short-listed for the 2008 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and won the poetry prize in the Costa Book Awards. In 2009 Foulds was again shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and won a Somerset Maugham Award.
In 2009 his novel The Quickening Maze was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Recommending the work in a 'books of the year' survey, acclaimed novellist Julian Barnes declared: 'Having last year greatly admired Adam Foulds's long poem The Broken Word, I uncharitably wondered whether his novel The Quickening Maze (Cape) might allow me to tacitly advise him to stick to verse. Some hope: this story of the Victorian lunatic asylum where the poet John Clare and Tennyson's brother Septimus were incarcerated is the real thing. It's not a "poetic novel" either, but a novelistic novel, rich in its understanding and representation of the mad, the sane, and that large overlapping category in between'. On 7th January 2010 he was published on the Guardian Website's "Over by Over" (OBO) coverage of day five of the Third Test of the South Africa v England series at Newlands, Cape Town. Fould's published email corrected the OBO writer, Andy Bull, who, in the 77th over, posted lines by Donne in reference to Ian Ronald Bell in verse form:
"No doubt I won't be the first pedant to let you know that the Donne you quote is in fact from a prose meditation. The experiment in retrofitting twentieth century free verse technique to it is interesting but the line breaks shouldn't really be there."