Thank you to Bloomsbury from whom I received this book for review via NetGalley.
I was very excited to read this book having been blown away by the magnificent Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers as this is in the same vein (written by an Iraq War vet, based on his experiences). However, from the outset, in spite of my enthusiasm, I struggled.
Fives and Twenty-Fives focusses on three main characters who served together in a platoon charged with the dangerous job of repairing the roads, sorting out potholes which may or not contain bombs. “Dodge” an Iraqi interpreter, son of a former Saddamist official now hiding out in Tunisia and trying to complete his thesis on Huckleberry Finn as the Arab Spring erupts around him. Then there is Doc Pleasant, a medic who is now struggling to find his place back on home soil. And finally Lieutenant Donovan who dreams of building a boat to block out the memories that haunt him.
I think this book has a lot of potential but somehow just doesn’t hit the mark. For a start, I found the jumping between characters and present day/ past experiences a little clunky. I’m not sure if it was the writing or my failure to imagine it, but a lot of the time I just couldn’t picture or even understand what was happening in the war/ action sections. It builds, as these novels always do, to a ‘big terrible thing’ but it is only given a cursory glance when it could and perhaps should have been a lot more dramatic. Things are hinted at but never really developed enough, I wanted to know more about the three main characters who remained for me rather superficial.