There's No Home by Alexander Baron
|There's No Home by Alexander Baron|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: A British battalion billet for a time in a war-ravaged Sicily. Caution appears to be thrown to the wind with many, as the weary British men start to claim the affections of the local women.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: June 2011|
|Publisher: Sort Of Books|
This book was first published in 1950 and is one of Baron's so-called 'war novels.' The lengthy Afterword praises Baron citing him as the great British novelist of the Second World War. The jacket cover is attractive and striking so, all in all, I was keen to start reading.
It's the year 1943 and Sicily has been invaded (along with other parts of Europe). The menfolk have gone (will they return?) and the women, children and old people left behind are a sorry sight. Impoverished, ragged and with barely enough food to eat. A British company of soldiers rolls into town ... and everything changes. The men are foot-sore, exhausted and dirty. They are also glassy-eyed with the horrors of war. And as if that were not enough, the Sicilian sun beats down on them mercilessly. But there's some good news - they're here to rest and recuperate for a while.
And straight away Baron's flair for descriptive text is in evidence, particularly as he describes this hot and foreign landscape through British eyes. Alongside this, we get the rat-tat-tat of the strident English accent bursting on the scene from the officers. But in a good way - or a not so good way? I'll let you judge for yourself. The locals - particularly the women, think that the foreigners are a weird lot.
The poverty of the local people is evident for the Brits to see. Their homes are no better than slums and the babies and young children appear dreadfully malnourished. But the soldiers immediately take pity and hand out sweets and chocolate to the young ones. And as the men settle in to their temporary 'new home', there's a discernible shift in relations. The women with their dark eyes and dark hair turn quite a few heads and catch the eye of many of the soldiers. A bit of bartering, shall we say, takes place. Much needed food for the family in exchange for a bit of fun under the bedsheets, or even just some tlc. Everyone's happy and there's no harm done. The British wives back home will never know, will they?
For me, the rather simple mindedness of most of the soldiers was striking, often to the point of poignancy as they air their thoughts on their new lives. Whiling away the odd hour on a balmy summer evening, stomachs full, what's not to like? Some of the men even liken it all to a holiday. But of course many of them are not well-travelled, so Sicily comes across as exotic and almost beyond their comprehension. Until now. One soldier in particular strikes up a relationship with Graziella, a young mother. But is there any future in it?
Baron's use of dialogue between the men is first-class. It comes across as natural. But on a negative point, because of all this banter and light-hearted chat and larking about all over the place, sometimes it didn't quite work for me. I felt it staccato and too flippant which had the effect of making these characters too 'light' on the page, if you get my drift, which was a shame. However, the Sicilian women are a force to be reckoned with. Strong-willed, feisty and beautiful. There's a terrific piece later on in the novel describing a mother at her child's funeral and the writing is excellent. But overall, after all the hype from the Afterword (which I read before I started the book) it didn't have that wow factor that I was expecting.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If this appeals try The Foreign Correspondent by Alan Furst.
You can read more book reviews or buy There's No Home by Alexander Baron at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy There's No Home by Alexander Baron at Amazon.com.
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