Reviewed by Didi Groenhoff
Captain Tom Barnes leads British troops in a war zone. One unfortunate day he steps on an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) and gets severely hurt. This moment does not only affect Tom, but also the citizens living in the war zone and his family waiting for him at home. We follow them before and after the accident, seeing the effects on their every day lives through the eyes of 45 objects.
That is exactly what is so special about this book: the perspective. We do not see these people as we normally do: through human eyes, or even from a omniscient viewpoint. We see them through the eyes of every day things: a hand bag, Tom’s night vision goggles, a bicycle, some medical equipment. Every item has their own relationship with the people it describes. Sometimes the objects talk about them and the situation they are in, sometimes they speak directly to them. But of course the subjects will never hear the objects speak.
The strange intimate relationship we have with the things that surround us creates a surprising closeness between reader and subject. Objects witness the small moments we spend alone, seeing every small detail we normally hide from others or are not even aware of. Or they witness our interaction with others in a very specific distant manner. This delivers a fresh, objective way of story telling. One thing all objects have in common is that they know all, as long as they are in the room with the subject. A perfect opportunity to see what people think and moving in and out of a scene without forcefully shifting perspective. No guessing who’s speaking now: every chapter features a new object that introduces itself and tells its own part of the story. And a whole new experience: a scene can now leave the room, leaving the narrating object (and reader) behind.
Not only does this book deliver a new form of perspective with a whole new range of possibilities, it also makes you think about the viewpoints we’re so used to, and the limitations they bring along. A whole new perspective on perspective, so to say. An experiment definitely worth reading!
An e-book of Anatomy of a Soldier is available here.