Anatomy of a Soldier: Book summary and reviews of Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker

Anatomy of a Soldier

by Harry Parker

Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker X
Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker
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  • Published in USA  May 2016
    320 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

Anatomy of a Soldier is a stunning first novel - of patriotism, heroism, and profound humanism - that will immediately take its place on the shelf of classics about what it truly means to be at war.

Let's imagine a man called Captain Tom Barnes, aka BA5799, who's leading British troops in the war zone. And two boys growing up together there, sharing a prized bicycle and flying kites before finding themselves estranged once foreign soldiers appear in their countryside. And then there's the man who trains one of them to fight against the other's father and all these infidel invaders. Then imagine the family and friends who radiate out from these lives, people on all sides of this conflict where virtually everyone is caught up in the middle of something unthinkable.

But then regard them not as they see themselves but as all the objects surrounding them do: shoes and boots, a helmet, a bag of fertilizer, a medal, a beer glass, a snowflake, dog tags, and a horrific improvised explosive device that binds them all together by blowing one of them apart - forty-five different narrators in all, including the multiple medical implements subsequently required to keep Captain Barnes alive.

The result is a novel that reveals not only an author with a striking literary talent and intelligence but also the lives of people - whether husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter - who are part of this same heart-stopping journey. A work of extraordinary humanity and hope, created out of something hopeless and dehumanizing, it makes art out of pain and suffering and takes its place in a long and rich line of novels that articulate the lives that soldiers lead. In the boom of an instant, and in decades of very different lives and experiences, we see things we've never understood so clearly before.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. An arresting and unconventional first novel ... Anatomy of a Soldier is disorienting but deeply compelling." - Booklist

"[A] gripping wartime story boldly and creatively told... Parker's unflinching tone lends the novel its lasting power." - Publishers Weekly

"You couldn't call this novel an anti-war tract; it's too grounded in matters of patriotism and duty for that. But you could certainly label it a pro-understanding work of art - and those may be more in need right now than ever before." - Kirkus

"A great novel: a defining work about a place beyond survival, where the terribly damaged succeed not just in living and adapting, but in bringing illumination back from the abyss. It will be read with wonder, with respect and with gratitude." - The New Statesman (UK)

"Raw, uncompromising and courageous, this is a brilliant and unforgettable book." - Sunday Mirror (UK)

"Parker manages to create great moments of suspense and pathos, thanks largely to the innovative structure he employs ... Following the well-worn advice given to first-time novelists, Parker has written about what he knows. It just happens that he's done it unusually well." - Financial Times (UK)

"[Parker's] prose, economical but evocative and at times wincingly graphic, confidently shepherds - The Guardian (UK)

"A mighty achievement ... stark and superb." - Esquire (UK)

"We've become desensitized to war stories, but Harry Parker - not simply through the originality of his approach but also through skillful storytelling, intimate observation, and an endless ability to surprise and move the reader - cuts past our callouses and delivers a bold new narrative of war and its aftermath." - Phil Klay

"It is a novel of concentrated ferocity and chilling accomplishments, tense and unflinching but alive to every nuance of feeling." - Hilary Mantel

"What Harry Parker has written will enthrall, enlighten, and stay with readers." - General (Ret) David Petraeus, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, 2010-2011

"A tour de force. In this brilliant and beguiling novel Harry Parker sees the hidden forces that act on the bodies and souls of combatants and non-combatants." - Nadeem Aslam

"This is a brilliant book, direct from the battle zone, where all the paraphernalia of slaughter is deployed to tell its particular and savage story." - Edna O'Brien

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Author Information

Harry Parker

Harry Parker grew up in Wiltshire and was educated at University College London. He joined the British Army when he was twenty-three and served in Iraq in 2007 and Afghanistan in 2009. He now lives in London. He's also a painter, attends art school, and has completed a postgrad degree at the Royal Drawing School. He sea-kayaks in his spare time.

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