Patrick Hennessey

Right of the Bang

Anatomy of a Soldier

By Harry Parker

Faber & Faber 314pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Harry Parker was a Rifleman and his extraordinary debut novel, Anatomy of a Soldier, lives up to the finest traditions of his regiment. Innovative, intelligent and powerfully effective, the Rifles have always been a proud breed apart from the rest of the British Army, noted for their conscious rejection of stylised, antiquarian tradition and their overbearing discipline in pursuit of excellence; they are famed as ‘thinking’ soldiers, trained to do everything that is necessary and nothing that is not.

Perhaps only a Rifleman could have written such an impressive, starkly different take on conflict. Certain elements are familiar: the dusty Afghan patrol bases; the visceral excitement of the firefight followed by the hollowing comedown; the loneliness of command and the curious, fierce love of fighting men for each other. But Parker’s decision to tell the story from the multiple perspectives of forty-five inanimate objects is as innovative as the first green jackets must have seemed on the battlefield. It makes for a rightly unsettling read.

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