I have to admit some trepidation in reaching out to a reviewer known as TropicalMary on a website named Literary Homicide. Mary describes herself as “a heathen, half-breed, comic book loving, gamer who is trying to understand why jeggings exist.” Jeggings? I had to google that. Jeggings are tight-fitting stretch pants that look like denim jeans. Suffice to say the mystery around Mary, her site, and her role perked my interest. With that background, I’ll share Mary’s take on The Circumstantial Enemy.
My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
I had concerns that the author would try to use phonetic spelling to better illustrate accents and pronunciation. I was well pleased when I started reading and there wasn’t very much of that. Where this device was used, it was to highlight something specific, which was entirely appropriate for the narrative. I found the overall writing style comfortable to read, and the narrative easy to follow. With so many different characters and fronts, I was impressed by the author’s ability to give each character a very unique voice within the narrative.
My only “negative” comment is about the font. I read this book on my Kindle, and the Kindle app on two different laptops. I was incapable of changing the font from what looked to be a digital version of typewriter style text. I don’t think that many readers will find this to be a problem, but as a dyslexic human, I really really struggled to read this book, at times. It was uncomfortable for my brain to follow. This doesn’t affect the story, and it has no bearing on the language but Mr Bell should see if something in the mobi file can be changed that will allow the e-version’s font to be changed by the user.
“With three million Russians reported dead, Tony thought the invasion was near-complete. It was not to be. The rains of fall transformed dusty roads into muddy slop that devoured horses as well as tanks. Winter brought blizzards of thirty below zero. Trucks remained frozen in the mud, boiler water solidified and engine oil hardened.”
“Tony paid little attention to the pretentious blather of head table diners. As he chewed the succulent roast beef, he watched Mauer’s black eyes roving the room. Mauer calmly sliced his meat, chewing longer than everyone else and wearing a contemplative expression, as if seeking the origin of some obscure seasoning.”
“While she slept, he sat on the side of the bed next to her, studying her, watching her every breath. For the first time in months, he breathed easy. The woman in his bed had managed to banish the worry of being in a land where he was the enemy.”
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. As an historian, I appreciated the care Mr Bell took in creating the world for the reader. He has the most splendid descriptive way of writing without being verbose or over the top. I found many scenes to be quite emotive, while at other times I could feel how disconnected some characters were feeling from those around them, and their loved ones. I especially enjoyed the Croat perspective of a very well-known, documented and discussed war. As a generation reliant on documentaries, history books and other second hand sources of what WWII was like for the individual, we are never sure of the facts at times. We cannot always know people’s reasons for joining the side that they did, and what other motivations weighed their minds at the time. This novel made me feel like I was shown an entirely new perspective of the war. I know a lot about the Soviet, Italian, British and allied forces motivations for join the war, and even Germany’s, but no-one really talks about the other sovereign or city states who participated and why. This book presents a wonderful “why”.
This was a deeply human story, from many individuals’ perspectives. They did not always see eye to eye but the reader can fully understand why each one acts in the manner of their choosing. The reader may not even agree with those choices but the book never makes you feel like you have to. Regardless of right or wrong, or what is moral, the narrative remains neutral and allows the story to be told. It’s sad and tragic, but at times uplifting and inspiring. I would recommend The Circumstantial Enemy to any reader with an interest in history and WWII, but also people who understand that the world is never a black and white place when it come to morality and the individual.
My rating: 4½/5
Thank you TropicalMary for your insightful review. I appreciate your time and your contribution to my literary journey.