An accidental soldier by John Charalambous
UQP, 2013. ISBN 9780702250118.
(Age: 13+) In the spring of 1918, Harry Lambert is working as a military baker behind the lines in France. He is tired of watching his friends die around him. After learning he is to be sent to the front, he makes a decision that will change his life forever. Harry runs away to the countryside, finding refuge with a French woman named Colombe who speaks no English. The two form an unlikely bond, falling in love while waiting out the remainder of the war.
An Accidental Soldier (originally released in 2006 as Silent Parts) is first and foremost a tale of love and hope. Yes, it is mostly set during the First World War, but the presence of the war exists mostly for the mere setting of France, and as a catalyst in bringing Harry and Colombe together. This is not a war novel that focuses on the close friendships between men fighting on the front line, nor on the gruesome reality of the battlefield, but on the tender and unlikely love between two people from very different parts of the world. Harry Lambert is a quiet, shy man, weary of the blood and gore of the war, whereas Colombe is a strong, older French woman living on her own in the countryside and trying to cope with the death of her son. Their relationship is unlikely, but not unrealistic.
The writing is gentle-paced, yet captivating. The characters are well developed and very interesting, and Harry in particular is excellent. However, this novel truly succeeds because it doesn't focus on the bloodshed or cruelty of the war, but on a delicate, unexpected love.
An Accidental Soldier is an evocative, touching portrayal of unlikely love during the cruel days of war.
Rebecca Adams (Student)