Book Club – The Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker
Here is the unforgettable story of Captain Tom Barnes, whom we first meet as he is leading British troops in Afghanistan. We then meet two young Afghani boys—and the man who trains one of them to fight against the infidel invaders. Finally, there are the family and friends who radiate out from these lives: the people on all sides of a war where virtually everyone is caught up in something unthinkable. But this novel regards them not as they see themselves but as the objects surrounding them do: a helmet, a bag of fertilizer, a beer glass, dog tags—and a horrific improvised explosive device that binds them all together by blowing one of them apart. A work of extraordinary humanity and hope, Anatomy of a Soldier takes its place among the great novels that articulate the lives of soldiers. In the boom of an instant, we see things we’ve never understood so clearly before.
- Discuss the narrative perspective that the author employs in Anatomy of a Soldier. How did Parker’s use of the objects as narrators help to create an intimate picture of war and how it affects soldiers?
- In the opening chapter of the book, Barnes is introduced to the reader as BA5799, and he is referred to by both names interchangeably throughout the novel. Why do you think Parker chose to do this? What effect did it have on you as a reader?
- How would you describe Captain Tom Barnes? Given the fractured narrative structure, how did your understanding of the character evolve over the course of the novel?
- The relationship between the British soldiers and the local citizens is fraught with tension. How does mistrust of the British soldiers factor into daily interactions? How does fear permeate the atmosphere in Faridun’s community?
- What attracted Latif to the path he chose in life? When does he feel most conflicted about his decision? How would you describe his relationship with Aktar?
- Kushan Hhan takes a serious risk by inviting Captain Barnes into his home. How would you describe their interaction?
- What does Parker’s use of objects as narrators assert about the impersonal aspect of modern warfare? How does technology factor into the way we fight wars today?
- Captain Barnes grapples with issues of confidence after his injury. How does his sense of self change over the course of the novel?
- Anatomy of a Soldier is told in a nonlinear fashion, with jumps in time, place, and perspective. How does this create a sense of anxiety during the reading experience? How does the slow reveal of details reflect Barnes’s complicated journey of healing?
- Discuss the last chapter of the book. How would you describe Barnes’s emotional state during this scene? Describe your own emotional journey during the read. What did you find to be the most important lesson or message that this novel imparted?
About this Author
Harry Parker grew up in Wiltshire and was educated at University College London. He joined the British Army when he was twenty-three and served in Iraq in 2007 and Afghanistan in 2009. He now lives in London. He’s also a painter, attends art school, and has completed a postgrad degree at the Royal Drawing School. He sea-kayaks in his spare time.
As discussed at our last meeting on 18th July we are going to submit 2 book choices for each of the following categories:
and these will be picked out of the 6 different pots at our meeting on 5thSeptember. We decided to select books for 2019 this way to vary the genre and make the books we select as varied as possible. 2019 book club dates and book selections will be posted as soon as possible after our September meeting.