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The Book of War

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4.10  ·  Rating details ·  21 ratings  ·  8 reviews
Winner of the M-Net Literary Award for debut novel, 2013.

An illiterate child is stranded on the southern tip of Africa. The British and the Xhosa have been at war for eighty years and the boy signs up in the hope of steady meals. His new commander has assembled an assortment of convicts, sailors, and drunkards from the gutters of Cape Town. They will be used to test the ef
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Paperback, 280 pages
Published September 26th 2012 by Jacana Media (first published January 1st 2012)
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4.10  · 
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 ·  21 ratings  ·  8 reviews


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Ray Hartley
Jan 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Told from the perspective of a troop of irregulars fighting the Xhosa on the eastern frontier, this is a story of a brutal campaign of extermination. It is a blood-drenched tale in which the execution of women and children and the burning of "heathen" homesteads is routine. Whyle's use of antique language and his decision to restrain himself from lacing the text with his disapproval make it all the more powerful. An absolute masterpiece of storytelling.
Greig Coetzee
Jul 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
James is not a friend of mine. He’s a work colleague in that we are both freelance script writers for the same soap. I say this to make the point that, while I know James, I have no reason to write a review that is anything other than my honest opinion.
The Book of War is an astonishingly good debut novel. It shines a disturbing and revealing light back through South African history giving the reader new understanding of the violence, racism and selfishness of our past and, perhaps more importan
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Rob
Oct 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Okay, so it's a "cover version" of Blood Meridian, shifting it to South Africa. But it's no mere copy, and indeed a Blood Meridian without Judge Holden and all that poetic evocation of evil is a little like Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) without its lead guitar (actually that cover exists, it's by Angelique Kidjo, who like Mr Whyle takes the tune to Africa). And the language here, rather than dancing along a ledge between spare and Biblically ornate (in spite of the slightly portentous-sounding, a ...more
Hamilton Wende
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book! A whirlwind ride into our past!
Scott Pomfret
May 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended by my high school English teacher, the Book of War is a brutal lyrical account of colonial power's ultimate triumph over native people trying to reclaim scarce land. That description suggests a good side and a bad side, but there are none in this fascinating but unremittingly bleak tale of savagery. Organized in chapters that are set out like an old-fashioned Dickensian serial, the book proceeds at a fast clip as green recruits are mauled and punished and for a time victory hangs in ...more
Warren Wilbraham
May 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Brilliantly written. The horrific imagery brought about by gentle words and your imagination as you realise the events unfolding.
Scott
Jun 19, 2012 rated it did not like it
I really wanted to like this book; the cover art was enticing and there were some rather impressive names on the back cover commending it. I struggled through it and have to say that, while it was not completely awful, it was a slog to complete.

The writing style is (the author admits) heavily based on that of Cormac McCarthy and the story is based on his novel "Blood Meridian". This was quite evident from the start of reading it. This is perhaps great for literary fiction and academic honours, b
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Cal Harding
Oct 06, 2012 rated it did not like it
Derivative and pointless. Whyle attempts to transplant the heart of a lion into the body of a mongoose by gawkily shoehorning the diluted style, characters, motifs, and even entire passages from McCarthy's Blood Meridian into a South African setting.

On the other hand, perhaps the entire thing is satire; a sublimely subtle indictment of the smug vacancy of literary post-modernity, in which case, bravo!
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James Whyle grew up in the Amatole Mountains of the Eastern Cape in South Africa. Conscripted into the apartheid army, he was discharged on the grounds of insanity. He did everything in his power to assist the authorities in arriving at this diagnosis.

His story, The Story, was chosen by JM Coetzee as winner of the 2011 Pen/Studzinski competition. The Book of War, a novel, won the M-Net Lit Prize
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