The basics: Set in British-occupied Cyprus in the 1950's, Small Wars is the story of a young married couple, Hal and Clara. Hal is an officer in the British army. It's a politically tumultuous time, as Cypriots are increasingly resistant to the British.
My thoughts: Small Wars is a beautiful, subtle and powerful novel. It's not a novel that sets out to make its case from page one, and its power snuck up on me. Perhaps because of the cover, I expected this novel to be mostly Clara's story, but Jones shifts seamlessly back and forth between Clara and Hal's perspectives, often on the very same page. Initially, I identified with Clara more, but surprisingly, Hal ended up stealing this book for me.
With my modern perspective, even knowing very little about this time in history, it was clear to see loyalties shifting. While this novel was about Cyprus in the 1950's, many of the names could be changed and it would apply to occupation tales throughout history and continuing today. I read it with a modern United States perspective, and the parallels were profound.
Small Wars is at times a dark novel:
"Naked corpses with their hands cut off, vichyssoise for lunch, rumours of a new governor, the illegal torture of a teenage boy--if you reflected upon it, thought Hal, one topic was pretty much like any other."Despite its darkness, however, Small Wars never lost hope for me. It's more illuminating than depressing. Its power is subtle, but it's a novel I find myself thinking of more and more, even though I finished it almost two weeks ago. I liked the first half, but I loved the second half.
Favorite passage: "At least a battle--at least they would have the name of a battle to have died in, not just a row of Greek letters most of them didn't understand, at least a country to fight against, or defend, not this small, dirty struggle."
The verdict: Small Wars is a moving novel about war, identity and loyalty. Its initial slow pace many turn some off, but the payoff is worth it.
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Length: 400 pages
Publication date: January 19, 2010 (it's in paperback now)
Source: review copy from the publisher, courtesy of TLC Book Tours. Check out the full list of tour stops.
Treat yourself! Buy Small Wars from Amazon or an independent bookstore.
As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you!