A shout in the ruins by Kevin Powers
Sceptre, 2018. ISBN 9781473667785
(Age: 16+) Highly recommended. Powerfully written and well crafted, this novel draws together two strands, one set during the cruel times of slavery plantations and the American Civil War and the other, ninety years and more later, as George Seldom sets out on a path toward some kind of atonement. It is a complex weaving of personal stories - the clues holding it together are a faded note, an elkhorn handled knife, and a pair of cracked blood veined glasses. The lives of slave owner Bob Reid and his teenage daughter Emily, and the ruthless Frenchman, Levallois, are inextricably intertwined with those of the slaves Rawls and Nurse, two lovers that will never know freedom. Rawls is a 'runner' a would-be escapee, and is hobbled to pay for it, his two big toes chopped off, but he continues to hope that one day he will find the young girl, Nurse, named for her wetnurse duties. The day they finally meet again is a moment of silent overpowering emotion, neither of them daring to speak. Can there be any chance of happiness for them in the lawless violence of the times?
Author Kevin Powers served in the Iraq War, he obviously knows war first hand, and it is depressing to realise that the violence he describes must be written from experience, that men continue to torture and kill each other now just as they did back then. However, despite the horror and carnage depicted in the novel there are glimpses of hope, people strive to love and care for each other, and perhaps one day find a kind of peace.
I read this book, and then turned to the beginning and read it through again. It is a complex book, the language is rich and poetic, the story harsh and cruel, but not without hope. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it - it is a rewarding read, and adds to the understanding of what we are as human beings.