Adam Foulds is such a skilled writer, I don’t even know where to begin. This might be the closest thing I've seen 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