Publication Date: 25th August 2016 from Mantle.
Source: Review Copy
The pain woke him up. He was grateful for it. The train had stopped and somewhere, up above them, the drone of aircraft engines filled the night sky. He could almost remember her smile . . . It must be the morphine . . . He had managed not to think about her for months now.
1944. Paul Brandt, a soldier in the German army, returns wounded and ashamed from the bloody chaos of the Eastern front to find his village home much changed and existing in the dark shadow of an SS rest hut – a luxurious retreat for those who manage the concentration camps, run with the help of a small group of female prisoners who – against all odds – have so far survived the war.
When, by chance, Brandt glimpses one of these prisoners, he realizes that he must find a way to access the hut. For inside is the woman to whom his fate has been tied since their arrest five years before, and now he must do all he can to protect her.
But as the Russian offensive moves ever closer, the days of this rest hut and its SS inhabitants are numbered. And while hope – for Brandt and the female prisoners – grows tantalizingly close, the danger too is now greater than ever.
And, in a forest to the east, a young female Soviet tank driver awaits her orders to advance . .
Well. In that rather random way that I write reviews by just thinking out loud I’m a little lost for words on The Constant Soldier (hang in there that’ll last all of five minutes I’m not a quiet person) To be fair the gorgeous Sophie Goodfellow did warn me by using the shorthand method of just sending me the book without checking the current status of my reading frenzy first, she only does that when she knows and has never been wrong.
I loved it. I did shed actual tears several times, felt it to my core and eeked out the reading of it so I wouldnt have to leave it behind me, now I’m feeling slightly bereft. I’m probably going to watch tv for the rest of the day because I wouldn’t envy whoever I read next. They’ve got something to live up to.
William Ryan writes with a simple, elegant and utterly poetic style that just immerses you totally into the reading experience of it. Character study, setting, plot, everything working on every level, that is the bottom line. If that wasnt enough he’s telling a fictional story here with its basis very firmly in fact and taking you back to a time of war, a world in turmoil, men and women living on the edge of reason and he makes it all so real and in the moment and so completely present that you could almost imagine it was happening around you right now. That is not technical writing skill that is creative genuis right there. I’m not sure if this is new for this writer but I’m about to find out as I just bought the entire back catalogue. YES its one of those (sorry everyone who blames me for their extreme book buying)
The story itself is emotive, thought provoking and completely engaging first page to last, I suffered huge amounts of book trauma (the good kind) a fair bit of fingernail biting and all the rest. The plot is taut and authentic, the descriptive prose practically flawless – if you are an emotionally charged reader like me you are just going to devour this and if you are of the more practical head screwed on variety the very least that will happen is you will appreciate the skill. Although I dare anyone to come away from The Constant Soldier without at least one pure emotional sense running through them, whatever that may be. Me I’m slightly dazed but not at all confused about what is coming next and that is me driving everyone I know completely nuts about this book. Sorry (not sorry)
Reminding me in sense although they are both unique, of another darned book trauma causing writer I have recently been shouting about everywhere, I’m hoping to put the two of them together for a feature on release (hence this early review) so watch this space. I may need to bake a cake first (just say yes guys, you don’t want the cake trust me)
If you want a more considered, focused review that takes apart the plot and tells you all about it in that way or tells you about all the characters and things that happen you’ll have to wait for the next reviewer (although there are parts of the novel I’d like to quote verbatim just so I can go LOOK LOOK especially with relation to the father/son relationship in the story here, so so gut wrenching at times) – because for me this was about the heart of it, I knew that after the first couple of pages, it was going to be a book for my soul. So for that reason I give it a Highly Recommended tag as if that was even close to being enough. It may not be officially out until August but don’t worry I’m not going to let you forget.
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Happy Reading Folks!