New Finds

Big Troubles

A novel set in mid-'50s Cyprus as a military couple and an empire experience dramatic change.

Book Cover In military and diplomatic circles small wars are operations undertaken under executive authority within certain parameters. In the case of my insights and perambulations for this day, Small Wars (Harper Collins) is the title of British writer/screenwriter Sadie Jones’s (The Outcast) second novel set (mostly) in a British imperial way station, in the eastern Mediterranean in 1956, about the time of the Suez Canal Crisis.

British army major Hal Treherne, of British warrior-class lineage, is posted on Cyprus, which is undergoing nationalist ferment and the ratcheting up of perennial Greek-Turkish antipathies. The narrative builds up momentum when he is joined by his family, wife Clara and twin daughters, who are something of a distraction as Treherne patrols his assigned sector searching for terrorists.

Jones finely balances the narrative of matrimonial dynamics and tensions with the effects on Hal of sudden episodes of violence and gross brutality. The nature of guerilla war and terrorist campaigns recasts the traditional view of soldierly tasks and attributes—and that, added to Hal’s crisis of conscience, lead him to a soul-wrenching, life-altering decision.

In the case of this story it is to Sadie Jones’s credit—her ability to evoke a subtle and nuanced forward movement without the question hanging in the air—where is this going?—that heightens the dramatic impact of the climax. Which is to say it is a well-told story with thoughtful payoff.
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