The Sins of Soldiers
Against a backdrop of trench warfare’s carnage, Lea brings to life a brave but factional British battalion of soldiers in this finely scripted World War I novel, both suspenseful and revelatory. Lea’s narrator, Anson Scott, is an American newspaper reporter embedded with the Royal Pennines in 1916. His assignment is to surreptitiously cover the apolitical human-interest side of the war between allied British and French forces and the German army, who meet up during skirmishes and at the bloody Battle of the Somme at the novel’s end. Anson becomes friends with David Alexander, “a fascinating mix of professional assassin and gentleman of leisure,” and a man with a secret. Captain Tollman, physically imposing and seething with bloodlust, is the battalion’s curse and a forager of secrets; both Anson’s undercover work and David’s furtive desires are on Tollman’s radar, as well as Anson’s obsession with Beatrice Tempest, David’s fiancée. Lea is equally adept at conveying the sudden, surging violence of battles; the heightened emotions of soldiers and civilians trapped in a war; the foulness and maze-like anatomy of trenches; the human devastation from mortars, rifle grenades and other weaponry; and the physical surroundings. (BookLife)
This review has been corrected; a previous version listed the title incorrectly.