30. Anatomy of a Solider 

“Imagine the story being told through the objects around you.”

Hello! This is an odd choice for me, as usually this isn’t a genre I regularly engage in. But it was a very interesting read, particularly for the way it was written. This is a novel that follows the journey of a solider from able bodied, to severely injured, to adapting to life without legs. It is written by veteran Harry Parker, who has had very similar experiences to his protagonist Tom Barnes.

The reason that this novel came into my life was my friend who thought I would enjoy it as I am very interested in writing about objects in unusual ways. Anatomy of a Soldier has a very interesting structure and is written entirely from the perspective of different objects that litter the landscape of the novel, from Catheters to tourniquets.

Anatomy of a Soldier – Harry Parker

This is a very ambitious novel. Firstly, you spend each chapter asking yourself the question: “What am I now?” Sometimes the answer is easy and straightforward, but sometimes you have to work for it. These objects are also aware of feelings and thoughts carried by whom ever they are observing so they act as omniscient narrators to a story that flicks about quite a lot.

The narrative flashes backwards and forwards and dances around several groups of characters that as a whole act as a prism into which the story is viewed through. As the reader you spend a lot of time with Barnes in the war zone and in recovery, but also spent time pulled between the lives of the locals and extremists amid the turmoil. Each chapter is a puzzle of what am I, where am I, and who am I with? This in itself can be a little repetitive but some of these object changes are really jarring and surprising. From being an object with a very intimate function with the body, suddenly you may be the violence of an explosion, a bicycle, a battery, or a panic button on a hospital ward.

However before reading prepare yourself, this is not a novel that smooths over details this is a novel that is full of broken bodies and twisted flesh. It is grizzly and unflinching in it’s descriptions of war and surgery. It is dull in it’s long periods of walking and the slow unfolding of what is to come. It’s a jump from a supermarket carpark to the chaos of a firefight.

There are elements I really enjoyed about the narrative, like Barnes recovering and being very much a fly on the wall during surgery. But there were things that I found really bored me purely because of its a genre. I think I will likely dip into this to revisit how Parker uses objects, but it’s unlikely I’ll read it cover to cover again. If you’re after a novel that is a little surprising in it’s structure and perspective, give it a go. But if you’re after dragons, this one isn’t for you.

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