I want to talk about what the book does well but let me wallow in the trenches here for a moment more. The repletion of phrases, sentence fragments and aimlessness of the character’s internal dialog gives the book an almost stream-of-consciousness feel. Done in only one or two places, I’d be willing to let it slide. But half the bloody book is like that. It makes me wonder, is that what ‘literary’ readers like? Endless musing instead of action? Repeated phrases, intended to harken back to old emotions, clutter the book. The same thoughts, over and over, circular. No conclusions, just a restatement of principles.
But I wil give it made props for one thing: putting you into the moment and making you see it. The book did that very well. Vivid descriptions, it put you into the moment. If there was one thing that I wanted to take away from the book, it was the ability to make the reader feel what the character’s felt and see what the character’s saw. I could have done without ‘thinking what the character’s though’, since that was mostly circular wankery, but it was vivid in places.
The book did another thing well, this growing out of research. It highlighted characters who had pivotal moments in the battle that went unpraised at the time or afterwards. I can forgive a lot for raising up and accurately telling the story of an unsung hero.
The dialog and action were well done, again the author going back to original sources, reading the letters and accounts written by the participants. I just wish there had been more of that, dialog and action, and less navel gazing.
There has to be a way to show that emotion and detail but to keep the action moving, to keep the plot in focus. To entertain*. That has to be our goal as a writer. For me, that means storytelling.
The book disappointed me but only because I had such high hopes for it. I did learn something, I’d like to apply the author’s gift for placing me ‘in the moment’ while avoiding thoughts that do not have a purpose or following POV characters that are not at the moment of the action.** Everything we read can teach us something.
*I guess people are entertained by different things but I’d rather speak to people like myself. If I try to please the literary crowd, I’ll go nuts.
**Seriously, for the last third of the book, we keep following a POV character who is AWAY from the critical moment on the battlefield, who doesn’t even witness the moments of decision. You have to know who to focus on and when. No matter how in love you are with a POV character, if they aren’t doing anything interesting, don’t focus on them, then.