This book begins in 1941 and concerns three people in particular: Tony, Katarina and Goran. The narratives change throughout the novel but the reader is mainly hearing about events either from Tony or Katarina. Tony, a pilot, somewhat accidentally finds himself aligned with Hitler while Katarina and Goran fight with the communist partisans. Tony is shot down by the Allies and is transported to a prisoner of war camp in America, meanwhile Katarina finds herself unable to stop thinking about Tony even if he is with the enemy. The Circumstantial Enemy follows the true story of these three people through World War II and documents the struggles, obstacles and truths they had to face along the way.
When I initially started reading the book, I found myself a little lost. There was quite a lot of information to take in quite early on, and coupled with the military jargon Bell had placed throughout the novel, it took me a while to get a handle on what was happening. After the first 50 pages or so I felt more gripped by the plot however. Specifically, when Katarina finds herself being forced into a situation by a Nazi officer she calls on her survival instincts to get out, that’s when I really found myself hooked on the narrative.I thought the novel was well written by Bell and not only did I think the dialogue and narrative were crafted expertly, but the plot overall really seemed to be written by someone who knew what they were talking about. I have no idea what the author’s background is, but he clearly has done some excellent research for this book. It’s really nice to read something that has had a lot of effort and hard-work put into it to make it as plausible as possible.
I really commend how Bell managed to depict a lot of violence throughout the book, including rape and assault, and while he didn’t leave much to the imagination, I think with a book which is dealing with one of the worst few years in our history, he was right not to sugarcoat it. The addition of this violence only made the plot more plausible and also made me more invested in the characters’ stories.
I particularly found myself drawn to Tony Babic as a character. I found him charming and honest and I liked that even though he was saddled with the enemy, somehow he did not let go of who he was. All the characters had their own unique traits and qualities, something which made them alluring and kept me turning the page.
Overall the book was mostly fast paced, the character development was nicely shaped and the plot was engaging throughout. As an author John R. Bell is successful in his depiction of history and manages to portray the power of friendship, love and forgiveness triumphantly