The King's Rifle
has a rather disjointed beginning that readers may find
off-putting. It begins with a prologue that, while based on fact and relevant to
the history of the Chindits, has little to do with the rest of the novel. The
two or three chapters that follow strike the reader as somewhat rambling, with
the narrative touching on multiple subjects, stream-of-consciousness style. It's
a disorderly approach, and readers may have difficulty orienting themselves at
first. It is worth persevering, however, as those who read on will discover both
an exceptional historical fiction novel and a powerful coming-of-age story.
Bandele's background as a playwright is evident throughout the book.
much of the novel reads like a play. Most of the action is advanced through
dialogue, and readers come to know "soja" Ali Banana and his cohorts...
Beyond the Book
Major General Orde Charles Wingate was a controversial figure in the British
military during WWII. He was abrasive and opinionated, with ideas about warfare
that struck those around him as either idiotic or sheer genius. Many of his
superiors were impressed by him; others thought him a madman.
Wingate was born in India in 1903. He gained a commission in the Royal
Artillery in 1922, beginning a lifelong career in the military. During the years
that followed he served in the Sudan and later in Palestine. In 1940-41 he
formed a commando unit, "Gideon's Force," which operated on the
Ethiopian-Sudanese border, where it was very successful against the Italian
Army. He was sent to Burma in 1942 to form a force to combat the Japanese. These...