** OK **
After Darkness ... was light
As in light-weight
Don't mean to sound condescending but it was a good read - suitable for serialisation in a light-weight weekly mag. It was nice, light, easy-reading historical fiction. It was strong on context but weak on content, as in, the author managed to give a sense of place and historical detail but the characterisation and plotline were dull.
The narrative skirted around the darker aspects of the subject material with violence kept at arms length. In fact anything that could be considered a bit nasty ... from camp latrines to personal privations ... was excised from the novel. The horrors of chemical warfare were alluded to but the war itself was just a backdrop. Sex never reared its ugly head except for sweetly colouring his relationship with the unattainable nun, and frequent reference to his melancholy marriage. Whoops, I forgot ... there was that one nasty guard ... boo hiss ... but he got his come-uppence ... suspended without pay!
The voice of the first person narrative is restrained and understated. His relationships with others lack empathy and intimacy. Fine, that was the way he was meant to be written, but, given that the pivotal point to his character is his belief in honour, dignity and "saving face", I found his behaviour lacked verisimilitude (eg, the very public tears in the courtroom). At times he seemed to just go through the motions and this lead to a failure to engage me as a reader. There was a lack of passion, a lack of poignancy. The climax of the book was as murky as the dust storm that shrouded it. Too much of the narrative was loosely strung together historical research.
Interesting ... yes.
Engaging read... moderately so.
Did I care what happened to the characters ... no, they were boring, with no life breathed into them, behaving in unbelievable ways so that all that research didn't go to waste.