Sensible people always said it, didn’t they? The chances of being a victim of one of these things were infinitesimal — even when it had happened to those horses, even though that poor boy had lost his leg and would go home to his mother ruined, and the ruin would spread ripples.
She was still standing there with the children. They were quiet. Did she frighten them with her distress? Without even trying, without even saying, I’m frightened, I want to go home, I miss my husband. I miss him even when he’s there… Did they know, anyway?
(from Small Wars, page 155)
Small Wars is set on the island of Cyprus in 1956 and tells the story of Hal Treherne, a major in the British Army, and his wife, Clara. Hal is stationed on the island as EOKA terrorists begin to fight against British rule. The prologue shows Hal and Clara in the early stages of their relationship in 1946, and by the time the story really starts 10 years later, they have been married for several years and have two-year-old twins, Lottie and Meg.
Sadie Jones evenly splits the narrative between Hal and Clara. Hal comes from a military family and takes his job seriously. He hasn’t been involved in any real battles prior to Cyprus, and he gets a taste of war as the British Army tracks down terrorists. The things he sees on these missions changes him, and he becomes disillusioned with the military. Meanwhile, Clara has joined him in Cyprus, and she is juggling the girls and learning how to fit in with the officers’ wives at the same time she is scared about the terrorist attacks happening in close proximity to her family. Hal’s moral battle and Clara’s fear put much strain on their marriage and sets into motion a series of events that will leave lingering physical and mental scars.
Small Wars is a powerful book about the impact of war on the individual and on relationships, how a sense of honor and right and wrong can eat away at the soul, and how traumatizing experiences can cause people to turn away from those they love. The novel is sometimes quiet and sometimes exciting, and because I knew nothing about Cyprus and the war over unification with Greece when I picked it up, I found it hard to put down.
Jones writes with a tenderness for her characters and their marriage, without assigning blame. It’s the same when it comes to the skirmishes between the British and the Cypriot terrorists. Jones doesn’t choose sides but shows the good and the evil in both. Small Wars is about the small battles played out between nations, between soldiers, between spouses, and inside ourselves.
Disclosure: I received a copy of Small Wars from HarperCollins for review purposes. I am an Amazon associate.
© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.