Sherwood Smith's Reviews > Battle Dress

Battle Dress by Amy Efaw
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Mar 26, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction

After spending many decades trying to imagine what life in the military would be like for females, I have seen times change enough that women are not only in the military, they write about it. Efaw has fictionalized her summer of the Beast, Basic Training at West Point, when she was seventeen.

Efaw sticks to a tight structure: we open with 17 year old Andi Davis being driven by her family to West Point. The first chapter is their trip, establishing her dysfunctional family (though her sister is struggling to be sane; brief as her appearance is, I kept wishing for a novel about that sister) which in turn gives the reader a grounding in Andi's conflicted self-image, her world view, and eventually, her resolution.

Efaw's presentation of "the Beast" (Basic Training) is vivid, even visceral. According to her notes, she simplified certain aspects, a wise decision, as a reader unfamiliar with the world of military acronym (which changes as rapidly as technology) will be struggling to comprehend in parallel to Andi's struggle as she is shaken loose from civilian life and scolded, threatened, berated, and run into melding with her squad into a cohesive unit that may have to depend on that cohesion for their lives. Efaw has a deft hand with creating instantly identifiable and believable characters, and evoking the sensory experience of hardcore training.

A side pleasure was examining, even at a fictional distance, the evolution of West Point's teaching approaches from the West Point of earlier days, as evoked not only in autobiography (which can turn so easily into hagiography or self-justification) but in the difficulties discussed by, say, Manchester in his bio of MacArthur. West Point has an interesting history as an institution, going clear back to the days when the somewhat piratical Benedict Arnold offered to sell the place to the British via Major Andre.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by U.L. (new)

U.L. Harper This is fiction, right. If it is it sounds pretty interesting. I love to read about strong female characters. It helps me in trying to write them. Love the title too.


Sherwood Smith U.L. wrote: "This is fiction, right. If it is it sounds pretty interesting. I love to read about strong female characters. It helps me in trying to write them. Love the title too."

It is fiction, and it would be a great insight into female thinking.


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