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Small Wars by Sadie Jones

Small Wars (original 2009; edition 2010)

by Sadie Jones

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2963337,920 (3.69)98
Title:Small Wars
Authors:Sadie Jones
Info:Vintage (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 480 pages

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Small Wars by Sadie Jones (2009)



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Small Wars by Sadie Jones is set on the island of Cyprus during 1956. This was a time of military conflict and Major Hal Treherne has been posted there, soon his wife Clara and their two young daughters join him. Theirs is a military family and Hal is soon relishing leading his men into combat and serving his country in the way he has been trained to. Clara feels it is her role to back Hal, accept their living conditions and not complain or let her husband see her fear.

But this isn’t an open battle, this war for independence is being fought by guerrillas and schoolchildren alike. The lines of battle are unclear and civilians are often targeted., atrocities are being done by both sides. As Hal works at being a good solider, he finds himself on the same side as rapists and torturers. He withdraws into himself and Clara feels more and more abandoned. It takes a personal tragedy to change their lives and eventually open the path of communication between them.

The author has turned her microscopic view on this marriage and we can see that love, duty, stress, fear and mostly non-communication all play a role in the distance that separates these two. I felt this was a statement not only about life in the military but also about life in the 1950’s when talking about one’s feelings was not considered acceptable conversation. I applaud the author for telling this story, I loved the setting but unfortunately I never felt emotionally involved with the characters. They seemed to hold themselves as much at a distance from the reader as they did from each other. Perhaps this was the authors’ design, but it kept me from totally falling in love with this book. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Jun 12, 2015 |
A good read. Set mostly in Cyprus and shows the breakdown of an army Major as he has to deal with the 'small war' that is Cyprus. Sadie Jones tells a good story as the reader is shown the perfect family, with twin girls, Hal and his brilliant army career and Clara, his young wife. Clara is a good army wife and has a strong sense of duty, although she is unhappy. Hal is forced to make a choice that he is unhappy with and this torments him so that he struggles to do his job to the ability he is normally able. Around the narrative is the hot sun of Cyprus and good descriptions of the hastily built army base. Sadie Jones shows a good understanding of army life at that time. ( )
  Tifi | Feb 25, 2015 |
Set in the 1950s during the military conflict in Cyprus, this is an example of how war - no matter how small - can bring tragedy for those involved. The author has a beautiful writing style and even though the characters have difficulty expressing their emotions, Jones is skilled at allowing the reader to understand them. An excellent work that I can recommend highly. ( )
  VivienneR | Dec 11, 2014 |
Set in 1956 Cyprus, just prior to the start of the Suez Crisis, this story really packs quite the punch. What I found amazing is how well Jones balances the emotional roller coaster ride of the plot with the more subdued, rather understated prose. The raw emotional energy of Hal and Clara is there, lashing like an electric current, but constrained in a stoic English facade of repression and lack of honest communication. The story is multifaceted as Jones bares to the reader the inner thoughts, emotions and turmoil of her main characters. The story vividly captures the growing unrest of Cypriates under colonial British rule of the time period and the rising terrorist activities of EOKA (Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston) which the British were struggling to contain. The narrator, Stephen Hoye, does an amazing job, making it easy for me to understand the emotions of Hal and Clara. Sadly, the ending fell flat for me, rather anticlimactic compared to the prior bits and left me at a loss as to how I felt about the story. I found Hal to be a rather frustrating character and even felt compelled to reach out and slap him across the face at one point, which I won't go into because that would mean revealing spoilers. Suffice to say, it is a well crafted story that really gets under the skin of its main characters, giving the reader much to contemplate. ( )
  lkernagh | Jul 31, 2014 |
Small wars are military conflicts that are confined to one small country, or area, of the world. By no means are they any less dangerous than large major wars. SMALL WARS is set on the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean against the background of one such small war in the 1950s. The EOKA terrorists are fighting for independence from Britain and union with Greece. But as Cyprus is considered by Britain to be a vital outpost of the Empire the uprising had to be stopped.

Major Hal Treherne is posted to Cyprus and dutifully his wife Clara follows with their twin 16-month old daughters. Hal has risen to the rank of major in a ten year career that has not seen front line action, however he has total commitment to his country and believes in the ‘rightness’ of their cause - that of protecting Cyprus from the Cypriots. Clara loves her husband, but finds life as a military wife to be lonely and unfulfilling. As the weeks pass Hal is forced to confront his high ideals and question some of the military activities in the face of atrocities that he is drawn into, or made aware of. Internal conflict between what he believes is right and proper and loyalty to the military causes Hal to change. Clara resents the time Hal spends with his job, not just going to the office, but away on patrol for days. Adding this to Hal’s increasing failure to communicate, he is unable to put into words what is happening, Clara starts to believe he cares more for his job than her, a situation that leads to misunderstanding and resentment and a marriage and career on the rocks. When a horrific incident done by the British is hushed up Hal finally loses all faith in the military and questions why it seems alright for the British to torture, but not the enemy. At the same time Clara starts to lose faith in Hal. Can life for the two ever be the same again?

SMALL WARS is an easy to read and fast-paced story that makes the reader face up to some very confronting situations while sharing the emotional confusion that Hal goes through. Author, Sadie Jones, has managed to recreate a period of history when people knew their place in society, wives ‘obeyed’ their husbands and lay back and thought of England, any vestige of an emotional display was frowned upon and a drink at the club was the acceptable form of comfort. Having lived as a child during this time in one such British colonial enclave I found myself really relating to a lot of the social life as it was portrayed.

  sally906 | Apr 3, 2013 |
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Sadie Jones's first novel, The Outcast, was a devastating portrait of family damage in a postwar climate of numbness and repression. An unusually confident debut, it combined elegant, understated prose with a raw emotional charge to become that rare thing: a critically applauded bestseller. It's a hard act to follow, and while her second novel again examines love, duty, shame and violence against the backdrop of the 50s, it widens out from the domestic war zone to military conflict in Cyprus. Small Wars is commendably ambitious, but also a thinner, more mannered work than its predecessor. It strips away the social codes and agreed lies of army, family and marriage, but finds little behind them.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sadie Jonesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alfsen, MereteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Almighty God, whose son Jesus Christ, the Lord of all life, came not to be served but to serve, help us to be masters of ourselves that we may be the servants of others and teach us to Serve To Lead, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen.

The Collect of RMA Sandhurst
- Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden, Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither Living nor dead, and I knew nothing, Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land
For Tim Boyd
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An English rain was falling onto the instruments of the band, onto their olive green uniforms and the uniforms of the cadets as they marched.
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After career soldier Hal Treherne is transferred to the British colony of Cyprus, his wife, Clara, and two daughters follow, but Clara becomes fearful of her increasingly distant husband and the atrocities that take him further from her.

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