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A Son of War


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The superb follow-up to the bestselling THE SOLDIER'S RETURN

About the Author

Melvyn Bragg's first novel, For Want of a Nail, was published in 1965 and since then his novels have included The Hired Man, Without a City Wall, winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, Credo, The Maid of Buttermere and The Soldier's Return, which was published to huge critical acclaim in 1999 and won the WHSmith Literary Award. He has also written several works of non-fiction including Speak for England, Rich, a biography of Richard Burton and On Giants' Shoulders, a history of science based on his BBC radio series. He was born in 1939 and educated at Wigton's Nelson Tomlinson Shool and at Oxford where he read history. He is controller of Arts at LWT and President of the National Campaign for the Arts, and in 1998 he was made a life peer. He lives in London and Cumbria.


This is the second volume of a trilogy that began with The Soldier's Return, about a family in a little town in Cumbria, in the northwest of England, in the years following WWII; the trilogy has been heralded in Bragg's native Britain as his masterwork. It is certainly, in its first two volumes, a highly impressive achievement, spinning an utterly convincing tale of small lives that embrace large issues of faith, courage, endurance and aspiration. Sam Richardson, a thoughtful working man whose life has been enlarged by his war experience in Burma, continues to find it difficult to settle back into Wigton, and eventually finds independence in taking over an old pub and bringing it back to life. This is hard on his wife, Ellen, whose dream of a more intimate home has to be given up; she has to realize, too, that her half-brother Colin, who suddenly surfaces with news of her cherished but mysterious father but is shifty and evasive, is not the kind of man Sam can tolerate. And young Joe, their son, entering a painful adolescence beset by nameless fears, has to straddle the disparate worlds and demands of his mother and father, trying to be at once tough and tender. Bragg has a remarkable knack for entering into the hearts and minds of his characters, and his understanding of their milieu, still an almost feudal one in many respects even in the mid-20th century, is acute. This is an old-fashioned book in the best sense: sympathetic, leisurely, absorbing and warmly believable. (July) Forecast: Bragg is a writer of many gifts whose work is not as well known here as it should be; most booksellers will have plenty of customers, primarily older ones, who would respond strongly to this and his other books. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"1 'Alive with autobiographical energies and characters of flesh-and-blood immediacy... deeply humane and acutely truthful' - Peter Kemp, Sunday Times 2 '[A] perceptive, sparely-written novel... The trace of memory, Bragg shows us, is an enduring inheritance for each and every one of us.' - Lisa Jardine, The Times 3 'Full of a simple poetry that is deeply evocative... with a depth of affection that is genuinely moving. A Son of War is even better than The Soldier's Return.' - Carol Birch, Independent 4 'Shot through with blazing integrity and authenticity' - Val Hennessy, Daily Mail 5 'I can't think of a contemporary novel I've read this year that I like quite so much.'

This sequel to Bragg's acclaimed A Soldier's Return finds Sam and Ellen Richardson and their son, Joe, still in the dreary slums of Wigton, waiting for their chance for a new council house in a developing outskirt. Times are tough, and they are still barely scraping by. Sam continues to adjust to life after war on the Burma front, managing a job in a nearby paper mill and record keeping for a local bookie. And he is still struggling to bond with an eight-year-old son he scarcely knew when he returned. Ellen keeps a part-time job to provide piano and dance lessons for young Joe, a bright boy; she deftly dodges her husband's bouts of depression, pinning her hopes on improving her son's chances for a better future. While A Soldier's Return reflects Sam's experience of anxiety, depression, and readjustment, A Son of War is Joe's story, full of energy, youthful exuberance, and impatience to get on with the matter of growing up and going forward at a time when England is striving to do the same. Bragg is a marvelous writer with a light and understated style that easily evokes memory of postwar England. His many awards, including a life peerage, are clearly well deserved, and this latest work is essential for most literary collections. Highly recommended.-Susan Clifford Braun, Aerospace Corp., El Segundo, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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