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Anatomy of a Soldier

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,125 ratings  ·  187 reviews
Anatomy of a Soldier is a stunning first novel—of patriotism, heroism, and profound humanism—that will immediately take its place on the shelf of classics about what it truly means to be at war.

Let’s imagine a man called Captain Tom Barnes, aka BA5799, who’s leading British troops in the war zone. And two boys growing up together there, sharing a prized bicycle and flyin
ebook, 320 pages
Published May 17th 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf
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 ·  1,125 ratings  ·  187 reviews

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Amy | littledevonnook
We follow the story of a young British soldier name Tom who is posted to a war zone where the threat of injury is constantly looming. At the very beginning of the novel we learn that Tom has had to have his leg amputated after he stepped on a camouflaged bomb. Over the course of the novel we flick back and forth between present day and the time just before Tom encounters the bomb. Alongside Tom's story we also follow that of the terrorists and civilians in the nearby village.

I struggled to conne
Jan 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I was made carefully on a wooden table with buckled legs that rested against a dry mud wall. I was made by two men silhouetted in moonlight from the doorway behind them and the jaundiced beam of a torch placed over me and sweat glistened on their temples."

That was narrator number four, an improvised explosive device that changed Tom Barnes' life when he stepped into a field to lead his men back to camp after an exhausting mission. Barnes, a British captain, known mainly as BA5799 by the 45 narr
6/10 Last Year's Novels module

Description: Captain Tom Barnes is leading British troops in Afghanistan. Two boys are growing up there, sharing a prized bike and flying kites, before finding themselves separated once the soldiers appear in the countryside.

On all sides of this conflict, people are about to be caught up in the violence - from the man who trains one boy to fight the infidel invaders to Barnes' family waiting for him to return home. We see them not as they see themselve
Sally Green
Aug 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly moving story told by 45 different objects (including energy and water/snow and a fungus) related to a soldier's life and near death. The soldier is known as BA5799 by most of the objects though not all are used by him. I struggled for a while with the voice of the objects - they are all the same - and have a flat reporting voice that is totally emotionless, though some of the objects do know the feelings of BA5799, which at first seemed unlikely but then I warmed to the idea that a he ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
An unforgettable reading experience - living a soldier's tragedy and triumph through 45 inanimate objects. Anatomy of a Soldier is breathtaking and features an extremely original narrative technique from this gifted writer, Harry Parker. Fortunately, it does not moralize. Rather it describes coldly and brutally and realistically the horrors of war and the trials of recovery. A beautiful and important book.
Retired Reader
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting perspective. A British soldier's experience is told from the point of view of 46 objects that impact his life. Sometimes you have to figure out what the object is, other times the object introduces itself.
8/10 Last Year's Novels module
Mar 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have never read a novel quite like Anatomy of a Soldier. It is original and clever and told in voices that are savage and brutal, yet beguiling and beautiful at the same time.

Harry Parker recounts Tom Barnes's story of survival, and the stories of the young boys who are reaching maturity in a homeland that is a battlefield by using inanimate objects as the narrative voices. This unusual and intriguing structure and style has enabled him to tell the story without any human emotional baggage, or
Feb 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, favourites, read-2016

I heard some hype online from some fellow book bloggers, so decided to hunt this book down. The concept sounded intriguing - a story told from the perspectives of a series of inanimate object. The result far surpassed my expectations.

The author never tells you which objects are narrating the chapter, he shows you. I loved stringing together the clues and working out what the object was. I was amazed by how different each objects voice was, from the factual military objests such as the main
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

“I was making you die and when that happened I would die too. But I had no option, only oblivion. I had to persist and would consume you to do it.”

The unusual way of telling a story was the main reason why I read this book.
It was a bit of a challenge for me in the beginning, but after awhile, this new way of writing became normal, and I really enjoy it.

A series of inanimate objects are telling the story of Captain Tom Barnes and his fellow soldiers in a warzone. Through these objects we get acce
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-hand, war
A heart-wrenching tale of courage and fear, loss and hope. With themes and experiences instantly recognizable by war-fighters of every era.
May 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, arc
The entire book of Anatomy of a Soldier is written from the perspective of inanimate objects: a bag of fertilizer, a boot, a backpack, a mother's purse, a surgeon's saw. Each object gets its own, single chapter (there are no duplicates), and all of the chapters are connected. Together they form a story about soldier BA5799, a.k.a Tom Barnes.

Tom is a captain in the British armed forces, and he's pretty good at his job. He's not totally sure of himself, but he cares about his men, he cares about h
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was really different and unique. Every one of the 45 chapters is written from the point of view of an inanimate object such as a gun cartridge, wheelchair, dog tags, even snow. Takes some getting used to as it sometimes takes a while to work out what the object is and the story dots about between characters/perspectives/places (even countries) and in timescale it doesn't all run in order. By about halfway through I was hooked, though - it is so realistic and could only have been written by ...more
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In "Anatomy of a Soldier," the wounding and subsequent rehabilitation of British soldier Captain Tom Barnes is told, in non-chronological order, from the perspective of the objects that come into contact with him, from the IED that rips off his legs to the prosthetics that he is eventually fitted with. Along the way we meet those who engineered the attack, the friends and family members of both sets of fighters, and the strangers who work to save Tom's life.

The conceit behind "Anatomy of a Sold
Mar 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a daring novel, narrated from the point of view of various objects, phenomena etc. which contribute to Tom the soldier's story of his time in an unspecified war zone (possibly Afghanistan), but its major selling point, and greatest asset, is also its biggest flaw.

Due to the neutral moral position of items like guns, bombs and so, one can see the ambiguity in the real world of war when the polarising view of humanity is striped away, but it also makes much of this novel, which feels like
Leilah Skelton
Mar 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s an intriguing construct, but one that works beautifully for Harry Parker’s blistering debut. Using the narrative voices of 45 inanimate objects – the ephemera of war – we are given the fragments of a soldier’s experience of modern conflict. Free from political bias and without emotional steer, we are taken under the skin (quite literally at times) of BA5799. And it struck me that we meet him as a number. As a statistic. Because though this is the story of Captain Tom Barnes, it is also the ...more
Roman Clodia
Jun 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a gripping tale of Afghanistan told in a measured and well-judged tone. Parker has found a unique way of unweaving the story, with each short chapter being recounted from the point of view of an object: a gun, an army beret, a tourniquet, a kit-bag and so on. At first I found this distracting as we have to re-orient ourselves every few pages and work out what the object is which is 'speaking' to us (and they're not always obvious) but once settled into the story this just felt natural.

Mar 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - Book at Bedtime:
Captain Tom Barnes is leading British troops in Afghanistan. Two boys are growing up there, sharing a prized bike and flying kites, before finding themselves separated once the soldiers appear in the countryside.

On all sides of this conflict, people are about to be caught up in the violence - from the man who trains one boy to fight the infidel invaders to Barnes' family waiting for him to return home.

We see them not as they see themselves, but as all the objec
Apr 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, first-reads sent me this book as a contest winner.
The front of the book says it is a novel. AND that it is - a novel idea to tell the story of a British soldier leading his men in the war zone. A story that is told by the objects that are on him or near him. Yes, his helmet, his boots, and dog tags and the medical instruments that were used on him.
I need to read this book again because it is that different and unique and a quality book by the author, Harry Parker.
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
To somebody who doesn't know very much about the conflict (me!), this is interesting politically and delivers a provocative "message"... I really like the idea behind it, too, as a way to tell a story. But overall I was underwhelmed, found the style frustrating and it wasn't as emotive as I expected or needed it to be. (I think that was deliberate, though!) Bottom line is that it didn't work for me but I appreciate what he was trying to do.
Katia M. Davis
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was an emotional roller coaster of a book. It reminded me of Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried but it draws you in to a much greater extent. I'm not sure whether it is because the setting is in my living memory and I've lived with images, news reports, and had contact with people like the Captain Tom, or it is simply the power of the almost poetic prose Harry Parker weaves with the objects he uses. Which ever it is, this collection of 45 chapters is gripping from the outset. Had I not b ...more
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
A new war classic, like nothing you’ve read. Anatomy of a Soldier tells the story of Tom Barnes, a British soldier nearly killed by an IED in Afghanistan. Told through the perspective of 40+ inanimate objects (a Kevlar vest, blood bag, bomb, prosthetic leg, snowflake...) the novel jumps backward and forward, creating a mosaic of scenes that, together, capture the humanity, hopelessness, and hopefulness of both sides of a tragic war. Amazing!
Luis III
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As someone who only knows of war via media (movies, TV, video games) and news, I absolutely loved this book.

It went further than a simple first hand account of a deployed soldier. It took you deeper, showed you every detail of what happens in a state of war. Every action and how they're all connected.

The illusions and grandeur of what is presented to people to what war is (think about those silly Army recruitment ads advertising with rock music making you think you're signing up to be the next R
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really unique concept for a very moving story.
‘Brutal yet compassionate book on modern warfare. One that will stay with the reader long after its finish’

Writing about the brutality of modern warfare is no easy feat when trying to capture the reader. What Harry Parker has done with his debut novel Anatomy of a Solider is take this to the next level and see the brutality through 45 objects.
Harry Parker a veteran of tours in Iraq and Afghanistan writes about a fictional soldier Captain Tom Barnes serial number BA5799 who we find out very earl
Sep 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A challenging and rewarding book. I'd normally shy away from something that had inanimate objects narrate each chapter (45 in all) across a book - in (fairly) non-sequential chapters. Not-my-sort-of thing. But this worked.

It's the story of BA5799 (later Captain Tom Barnes) a young infantryman in an unspecified conflict (Iraq or Afghanistan). He stands on an IED and loses both his legs. This is the story of the incident, the immediate aftermath, and his recovery, mixed in with incidents from his
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally blogged at:

Every so often a book crops up on your radar that you really makes you think and puts everything else in to perspective for you and after a run of ok meh reads this one really made me sit up and take notice and realise that, actually, my life isn’t so bad.

The book acknowledges that it is loosely based on a true story but you only have to watch your local news, or read a paper, etc to realise that this book could have been written abo
Mar 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
An involving novel about a soldier and two Afghan boys told through the objects that they come into contact with (such as a bullet, a bicycle, several false limbs, and memorably a drone and a wheelbarrow). The book often revisits key moments of the plot from the perspective of different objects, which might sound repetitive, but is quite fascinating (two sides to every story and all that).

At first I thought that there was a lack of individual personality to most of the objects - hardly any of t
Ivo Janssens
Jan 04, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The story of a British officer is being followed by means of objects he is using or carrying (night vision goggles, id-tag, backpack, artificial leg, IED, etc.). He is being followed in more or less a random order and not in chronological order and always from the point of view of an object. This does not work for me. I never got to really like the main character as the story is told much to businesslike. I was glad when I finished the book.

It didn't help that the way how the living and fightin
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HARRY PARKER grew up in Wiltshire and was educated at University College London. He joined the British Army when he was twenty-three and served in Iraq in 2007 and Afghanistan in 2009. He now lives in London. He’s also a painter, attends art school, and has completed a postgrad degree at the Royal Drawing School. He sea-kayaks in his spare time.

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