Review Blog

Aug 10 2011

Traitor by Stephen Daisley

cover image

Text, 2010. ISBN 9781921758379.
Recommended. Stephen Daisley's first novel Traitor examines the concept of loyalty and suggests that personal loyalties, including friendships across cultural divides, are more powerful influences than expected faithfulness to leader and country. David Monroe is a New Zealand sergeant in World War 1. When he is wounded at Gallipoli and befriends a Turk, one of the enemy, David deserts to help his friend Mahmoud escape. This short time, when Mahmoud introduces him to Sufism and a different concept of God, is perhaps the happiest of David's life, and gives him the strength to live when he loses Mahmoud. A clear picture emerges of the callousness with which 'traitors' were treated when David is recaptured. After the war he returns to New Zealand where he lives a solitary life as a shepherd. A brief love affair, which itself involves other betrayals, results in a daughter who he does not acknowledge out of loyalty to her mother. Meanwhile Mahmoud is executed by the Turkish leader Attaturk who demands loyalty to Turkey rather than to God. The most memorable writing in the novel describes the routines of David's life as a shepherd, and the care with which he watches his flock in bleak and bitter conditions. Culminating with a description of tricking a ewe to care for another's lamb, David's life has become an example of the Sufist principle that the world is God, and care of it is to understand God. The novel is simply and powerfully written, and the characters are convincing. It could be compared with other works about war and its effects. It is recommended for senior students.
Jenny Hamilton

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