Sunday, 5 July 2009

"The Harrowing" by Robert Dinsdale

Apologies to Faber & Faber for taking a few weeks to get around to this post. I did actually read The Harrowing when it arrived, but got distracted by other things before I could write a review (like re-reading Aspects of the Novel, which I seem to have to do at least once a year - I cheated last year and re-read Two Cheers for Democracy again).

The Harrowing is a well written novel set during the First World War. It is difficult to say too much about the story without giving away the ending, but it concerns two brothers, both of whom end up in the trenches. The main part of the book deals very well with the battlefield background, and there are deliberately different passages at the beginning and the end. The final pages are particularly clever as they work on more than one level and for a moment one is not sure whether what is being read is intended literally, or as some sort of allegory or spiritual passage.

Dinsdale is a fine writer, there is no doubt about that. His work is much better than a lot of what I have been forced to read in the past while judging novel competitions, and is well worthy of receiving an award itself. The characters are strongly drawn, with echoes of Billy Prior in Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy. The prose is rugged, with good, vivid descriptive powers.

I recommend this book. It is a great read, but something more besides.

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