Laura's Reviews > Small Wars

Small Wars by Sadie Jones
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's review
Sep 19, 2010

liked it

I had never read a book set in Cyprus, and I decided to start this novel because it had good reviews and I wanted to learn something about how Cyprus became independent. My father in law did his military service at this time in Cyprus; a friend's husband comes originally from Cyprus. So it was a bit of a personal interest, I suppose.
Small Wars tells the story of what the violent situation in the island does to the marriage of Hal and Clara. Hal is a major but has never been involved directly in combat before. Clara follows him from Germany with her twin little girls.
Hal comes from a military family. His name reminded me of the national hero portrayed by Shakespeare in Henry V. However, when it comes down to it, Hal finds it difficult to accept the more sordid, despicable things that some members of the army are doing to their prisoners. I find it difficult to believe that before that point in his life Hal would have been unaware of the possibility of such things occurring within the British Army, but it seems to be so. His superiors suggest covertly that such a time comes to all officers, and Hal seems to function for a while, simply sending Clara to Nicosia, away from it all. However, it seems that Hal is unwilling to go along with it all after all. For me, what he does comes as a complete surprise and it made the final part of the book very interesting from a moral point of view.
It also seems strange to me that Hal wouldn't confide in Clara. He appears to be very unwilling to express his feelings. Is this the famous "stiff upper lip", a product of his stint in a military school? Is this typical behaviour of the British upper classes at the time? He is very much in love, and is often described as "shy" of his wife, even after so many years.
I liked the two little girls. I found them very realistic. They did what children do: moan when they couldn't go to the beach, get difficult when being put into a car, clamber on their mother's lap (and this spurs Hal's decision at the airport)...
The ending was very sweet and touching, but there were difficult issues in this book about sex in marriage, too, that were more disturbing to deal with. Finally there is forgiveness, there is a reaching out for Hal and Clara, and I found this satisfactory as a reader.

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