It's winter 1944 and the second World War is entering its most crucial state. A few months ago Ali Banana was a blacksmith's apprentice in his rural hometown in West Africa; now he's behind enemy lines, trekking through the Burmese jungle. He is fourteen years old. Led by the unforgettably charismatic Sergeant Damisa, the unit has been given orders to go behind enemy lines and wreak havoc. But Japanese snipers lurk behind every tree - and if they manage to escape the Japanese, infection and disease lie in waiting. As torrential rains turn the landscape into a muddy death trap, the losses mount up. Homesick and weary, the men of D-Section Thunder Brigade refuse to give up.
Taut and immediate, at once somber and exhilarating, The King's Rifle is the first novel to depict the experiences of black African soldiers in the Second World War. This is a story of real life battles, of the men who made the legend of the Chindits, the unconventional, quick strike division of the British Army in India. Horrific and always brilliantly executed, this vividly realized account details the madness, the sacrifice and the dark humor of that wars most vicious battleground. It is also the moving story of a boy trying to live long enough to become a man.
First published in the UK as Burma Boy.
Two years into the war, on a day so hot and stifling the usually bustling thoroughfares of Cairo were all but deserted, a spare, dishevelled looking Englishman with a stooping gait staggered through the city's dark alleyways and bazaars, jostling with horses, camels, bicycles, mopeds, pushcarts, pedestrians and cars, looking, he said, for a chemist. To every hawker he approached and tried to speak to, on narrow, congested streets wafting with the odour of ginger, cumin, sandalwood and mint; and at every shisha-pipe-smoke-filled coffee house he wandered into, it seemed, as he struggled to speak but seemed only to slur, that he was looking for something which existed only in his fever-sapped imagination; that much was clear, that this strange man, dressed in a British army uniform that hung loosely on his shrunken frame, and wearing a major's rank, was in the grips of a fierce and crippling fever. He shivered under the blistering heat, his teeth ...
Overall, The King's Rifle is an exceptional work that gains depth as
it progresses toward its compelling and unforgettable dénouement. Bandele's
writing style may not appeal to all readers, but those interested in the story
of this mostly unheralded band of soldiers will want to put The King's Rifle
high on their lists.
(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Full Review (1256 words).
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 ...
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"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist
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