Eleven Days – Lea Carpenter.
A fictional account of a mother’s relationship with her son, who seems destined for military success, as he heads into the conflict in Afghanistan and the crisis that ensues when he goes missing in action – the novel chronicles the eleven days after the son has disappeared in the field.
Written in a rather dry and plodding style – that became strangely captivating after a sustained push through the first part of the book, it seemed to me something like an acquired taste, like olives or whiskey; once you’ve got it there is a strange pride in its enjoyment. There are no bells and whistles to the narrative and it is interesting to see the grand themes of war, fear and the threat of death dealt with in such banal everyday events. The structure included different dates, in the present and in the past, and this worked well and really helped illuminate the relationship between mother, son and the elusive father, who is the looming cloud tempering the whole tale.
The story is sadly quite dull and obvious in terms of language and imagery and the research Carpenter has done is impressive but displayed a little too much, there are so many details about the military it does get in the way of the story sometimes. As for characterisation Jason, the son, is a tad unlikeable, as is his father, although I got the feeling this was not supposed to be the case. The twist at the end was also somewhat galling and underplayed; despite the fact it was odd enough to be straight out of a US soap opera.
Eleven days has an interesting story and is strangely addictive, with some great insights into the psychology and difficulties faced by young soldiers and their families, but my overall impression was that it was just OK, not one I will remember in 6 months time; there wasn’t much to challenge me here, it seemed too derivative, pushing the right buttons, that often produced a sigh rather than a genuine emotional reaction.
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