Sunday, 26 June 2016

The Open Arms of the Sea by Jasper Dorgan

Reviewer: David C Dawson

What We Thought:

As a pacifist, I detest war stories. But despite the book cover, this is not a war story; it is a love story, beautifully told, set amongst the folly of fading colonial values in the Aden Emergency of 1967.

Once I had started reading, I could not put this book down. I needed to know what would happen to the two wonderful central characters, Lieutenant Harry Deacon and his aide-de-camp Corporal David Lockett.

Deacon has joined the army to try to escape his guilty feelings of forbidden love back home. But he is only running away from himself, a futile endeavour that makes him hate himself, and hate his actions. It also makes him lonely. There are some marvellous descriptions of being in a crowded room and feeling utterly alien and alone.

He leads a small band of men, part of the British occupation of what was about to become the People’s Republic of South Yemen. Deacon is a compassionate leader, fiercely protecting his troops from the stupidity of senior ranks. He just about has it all under control, until the arrival of the dashing Captain Villiers and the beautiful Clemmie Rogers. Deacon is attracted to both in different ways and, as the Aden rebels bring their fight closer to the occupying British, Deacon’s world begins to fall apart.

Jasper Dorgan has created a protagonist who perfectly embodies the fear of being alone forever without hope. Through Deacon’s eyes, we see actions of horror, savagery and thoughtless destruction, justified by the British army chiefs through spurious rank and nobility. Dorgan portrays this world of madness using great wit and humour. Corporal Lockett has the best lines, and I wish that I had written them. As each character is introduced, they are given time to develop and live. They are fully rounded, with multiple dimensions making them real and vulnerable.

Jasper Dorgan is a poetic writer; this is his first book and I eagerly await his second.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Captain Harding’s Six Day War by Elliott Mackle

Avoid if you don’t like: Some description of graphic war action

Ideal accompaniments: A good whiskey

Genre: Love in War, LGBTQ

Available from Amazon

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