Walking Wounded by Sheila Llewellyn
|Walking Wounded by Sheila Llewellyn|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Deeply affecting novel about PTSD, set in the years after WWII and featuring a doctor and patient who both have traumas to work through. Sensitive and knowledgeable, this is a profoundly moving read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: January 2018|
David Reece was called up in 1941 and sent to fight in Burma. On his return in 1946, he finds a return to civilian life quite beyond him and, after a brawl, is sent to a military psychiatric hospital. There, he is treated by Daniel Carter, a psychiatrist whose instincts tell him that talking therapies can work with men like David, but who is working in a profession enthusiastically adopting invasive procedures such as ECT and lobotomy. Walking Wounded follows both men as they both try to come to terms with traumatic experiences and find a place in a world moving on from WWII.
Wow. Really, I could make this review just that single word. Wow. Walking Wounded is a huge achievement. If you're looking for a novel that is profoundly revelatory and comes with a huge punch of impact about something vitally important, this is it. It's hard to believe it's a debut novel, it's so assured. Llewellyn has experience treating people with PTSD and you can feel this personal experience informing the novel, but it's also carefully researched and there is a wealth of detail appropriate to the 1940s, when the story is set.
Some of the details are awful and shocking. The descriptions of the common practice of lobotomy and its impact, primarily on the patients but also on some of the clinicians involved, is deeply unsettling. Llewellyn describes David's awful experiences of combat PTSD episodes in vivid detail and it's harrowing, still more so for the ways in which triggers are so random and unpredictable. Although in a different way and for different reasons, Daniel is also traumatised by some of his medical experiences and his feelings and struggles are also described with great clarity and empathy. A great deal connects the two men in this novel and it is deeply affecting to watch one do his best to help the other, through which he is able to gain some healing of his own.
Our understanding of PTSD and the mental health needs of many ex-servicemen are considerably more sophisticated than they were in the 1940s and this is a good thing. But still, rates of homelessness, substance abuse and more are still orders of magnitude higher among veterans and this tells us that there is still a long way to go. I think - I hope - Sheila LLewellyn's book is a valuable contribution to this vital conversation. Walking Wounded is a disturbing read at times, and a heartbreaking one too, but it's also gripping, vivid and revelatory with an underpinning of huge understanding and compassion.
If you haven't read Pat Barker's iconic Regeneration series yet, then you should.
You can read more book reviews or buy Walking Wounded by Sheila Llewellyn at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Walking Wounded by Sheila Llewellyn at Amazon.com.
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