I'd give the last 10 pages or so 3 stars. The rest floats between 1 star and 2 stars.
The first two chapters are a complete and utter waste of time. They introduce you to the main character - a 60+ year old war veteran named Robert Hendricks who seems to have a lot of not particularly satisfying sex with hookers. Blech. (There's very little description; the "blech" is just because it's boring.)
In chapter 3, he arrives at the island of Dr. Perreira - which is where the book should have started. The book itself is rather disorganized. At times, it follows Robert around the rather isolated island. Most of the book, though, tells the story of his life - especially his time in the trenches in World War II. I think the visit with Dr. Perreira (who claims to be a friend of Hendricks' late father) was supposed to serve as a framing device, but it did a very poor job of organizing the memories.
Toward the end, there is some deviation toward the more interesting (to me) topic of mental illness, but nothing much of satisfaction is ever achieved. Maybe if the book had focused more on psychiatry and less on the day to day events of wartime, I would have enjoyed it more?
The two letters that end the book did their best to make up for the rest of the book. In retrospect, the whole novel was written to set up those letters. But it wasn't enough. The rest of the book was simply too dull for them to make up for.
Sebastian Faulks can be guaranteed to write well with feeling and insight.This story of a life lived during WWII and afterwards, all the influences on that life and the search for solutions is remarkable.Faulks, through his main characters, explores what little was known about Post Traumatic Stress disorder and the studies into psychiatry and treatment of mental illnesses. Impressive.
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