Sunday, 10 April 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Good Hope Road by Sarita Mandanna

At the outset of the Great War in 1914, New England Yankee James Stonebridge and Louisiana native Obadiah Nelson volunteer with the French Foreign Legion. They are among a handful of Americans who did so, young men lured by the chance of adventure and of upholding all-American values. Despite their very different backgrounds, James and Obadiah forge a friendship which helps them endure the squalor of the trenches and the brutal realities of war.

Both survive but when they leave the trenches behind they are changed men. Returning to his New Hampshire farm, James becomes a recluse. Only years later, when Obadiah visits the farm, can James's son Jim begin to understand what his father went through in the muddy fields of France.

Jim has fallen in love with a Madeleine, a carefree bohemian who brings light and laughter to the sombre world of the farm. But with another war looming, and the weight of his father's story heavy upon him, Jim finds that he has decisions to make, decisions that will alter the course of his life for ever.

BOOK REVIEW :- Fourteen years after the end of World war I ,with the recession rolling on and on,an American Veteran,one of those who fought in Europe,becomes part of a new battle to win back delayed wages for all those who gave up something including their lives lives, in the great war.

The novel opens in the trenches ,the narrative in the voice of Obadiah Nelson, a colored American drifter who is not central to the story but lends it energy with his earthy tone and lust for life.The part of the story that is set in the present belongs to Major James Stonebridge,a soldier from a well-off New England family. He brings back from this war dark memories that stand between him and a shallow society he can no longer tolerate;the memories cut him off even from his own son,Jim.

The appearance of the vibrant Madeleine Scott,an attractive 'flatlander'.injects both romance and a sense of purpose into the Stonebridge family- while Jim is captivated by this woman,the old Major is roused into taking his campaign to Washington and joining the 'bonus army'.Once the novel shifts from the trench to the American countryside,the pace falters a little because of the author's excessively descriptive style -too many words are used up in creating an atmosphere when more pared down prose would do. Nevertheless,author Sarita Mandanna is able to keep steering in the right direction,and her characters develop nicely,mercifully minus any contrived situations.

One of the most powerful scenes is that of the US army advancing against its own veterans- unarmed veterans - gathered in Washington to voice their demand,and attacking them with tear gas.Threaded into the story are poignant thoughts of what it means to be returning soldiers,to have served a nation that now regards them as a burden.A compelling novel of human relationships and changing times.

Sarita Mandanna belongs to the stunning landscapes of Coorg. Her family history extends for centuries through these hills, famous for their coffee plantations and often described as the 'Scotland of India'. Tiger Hills is her first novel.

Sarita Mandanna

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