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"Now we Shall Be Entirely Free" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP11 Oct 2019 9:48 p.m. PST

"Over the years, a number of people, me included, have compared the British author Andrew Miller to Hilary Mantel. Though much less well-known, he is a very stylish, almost painterly writer, and he has her gift for historical reconstruction, for describing the past without making it seem like a wax museum. In some of his best books like "Ingenious Pain," his first, about an 18th-century doctor, and the more recent "Pure," about an engineer in pre-revolutionary France trying to clean up an ancient cemetery he brings off the Mantel trick of plunging you so deeply into the past that before long you take it completely for granted.

Miller's new novel, "Now We Shall Be Entirely Free," seems bent on defying convention and expectations, and deploys the Mantel magic only intermittently. Like most of his books, it's set in the past in the early 19th century, in this case, when John Lacroix, a British Army officer and veteran of the Peninsular War between England and France, is deposited, half-dead, at his estate in Somerset. But what begins as if it might be a full-immersion historical novel (in the manner, say, of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series, also set during that war) quickly becomes instead a psychological mystery. Lacroix, once he recovers, proves to be half-deaf and broken in spirit, suffering from what we would now call PTSD. Instead of rejoining his regiment, he decides, for reasons that are as unclear to him as they are to the reader, to travel to the Scottish islands, where he has never been.

Though he doesn't learn it until quite late in the book, Lacroix is being pursued. While fighting in Spain, it eventually becomes apparent, he was witness to a My Lai-like massacre carried out by frightened, starving British troops against the small Spanish village of Morales. The Spanish authorities raise a fuss, and the British high command, needing a scapegoat to appease their allies against Bonaparte, dispatch a vicious corporal named Calley (no coincidence, surely) to quietly eliminate Lacroix. A Spaniard is sent with him, just to make certain the job is done right…"
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Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP12 Oct 2019 3:16 a.m. PST

Odd book. The basic premise does not hold any historical water given the attitudes of the time but the writing and the development of the drama is very good and it is well worth a read. Not much for the military enthusiast though.

ConnaughtRanger12 Oct 2019 11:28 a.m. PST

"he was witness to a My Lai-like massacre carried out by frightened, starving British troops against the small Spanish village of Morales." Should be hugely popular with certain members of these fora?

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP12 Oct 2019 11:36 a.m. PST



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