Captain Harry Parker lost both his legs to a Helmand province IED in 2009 and had a quarter-hour of fame carrying the Paralympic Torch in 2012 at the behest of Price Harry. Anatomy of a Soldier, Parker’s first book, with further his notability, because it has every chance of being the best British war novel of its generation.
Each of the book’s 45 chapters tells the story of Captain Tom Barnes from the point of view of an object in his immediate and tongential orbits. It’s a gimmick that might have killed the narrative stone dead, but Parker’s retelling of a soldier’s life from the POV of, for example, night vision goggles, weapons, Barnes’ mother’s handbag and the fake Nikes of a boy insurgent, is stark and superb.
The things aren’t given voices or opinions; instead they report dispassionately from fresh and interesting angles. Your mind’s eye zooms straight to each one as it’s revealed, causing a laser-like focus on the action. The page-and-a-half passage in which an explosion explains its effect on a man – “I crushed him against gravity” – is as impressively, brutally pyrotechnic as any Hollywood VFX. A mighty achievement.
Anatomy of a Soldier is out on 3 March.
Watch an interview with Harry Parker here.