The Tin Nose Shop by Don J Snyder
Inspired by real historical events, this is a compassionate and absorbing story of the horrific consequences of war, not only for the combatants, but for the families awaiting their return. Sam cannot face Ned’s wife, despite knowing she’s waiting for news. Katie is also mired in her own war, with a baby who won’t stop crying.
Situating the soldiers’ retreat in Northern Ireland enables the author to weave in a strand about the independence struggle, a different kind of war. Although I enjoyed this it does detract from the core of the book. Likewise Sam’s meeting with the poet and soldier Siegfried Sassoon towards the end of the novel seems an unnecessary addition.
But those are minor quibbles within a powerful novel about the casualties of war and I’m grateful to publishers Legend Press for my review copy. It poses the question of whether the masks are primarily to enable the men to pick up their lives again or for the government to hide how they have harmed a generation. I’ve read a couple of other novels that touch on the facial mutilations of the First World War: click on the cover image to see my reviews.
The Wilderness by Sarah Duguid
The only person the arrangement seems to suit is anthropology lecturer Brendan, a bohemian friend of Anna and David from university, and he wasn’t even invited. Disillusioned with his job, he seizes the opportunity to apply his knowledge of mourning rituals from other cultures to the girls and their uncle.
I really admired the interplay between Brendan and the sisters, as they alternately flirt with him and despise him, while he seems to have no awareness of the need for boundaries. It seemed inevitable that someone would be harmed, but would it be the girls or the middle-aged man?
Unfortunately, I wasn’t convinced by the ending when the couple’s marital problems lead Anna to neglect her responsibilities to the girls. But overall a readable novel about bereavement with some lovely descriptions of landscape and sea. Thanks to publishers Tinder Press for my advance proof copy.
Meanwhile, at the Ranch, Charli asks If you had a day to spend with an icon of your past what would that be? In all honesty, it would have to be my health right now, so I could go on one of my favourite walks. But I reckon I can compose a better 99-word story if I transfer that yearning to an imaginary soldier needing the services of the tin nose shop:
We’d make love as dawn light caressed the bedroom curtains and Molly would forgive my bristly chin. Later, as she prepared the picnic, our son would watch me as I shaved. We’d sing as we cycled to the river and I wouldn’t have to turn my back on them to eat.
I was prepared to sacrifice a limb for my country. Even give my life. I never thought my face was handsome till I lost it. But oh to have it back for just one day, not to have to choose between ghoulishness and disappearing behind a painted mask.