Spoils by Brian Van Reet
Published by Jonathan Cape
Expected publication 18 May 2017
I was given an ARC of this book by the publisher via NetGalley and voluntarily reviewed it.
WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT
It is the spring of 2003 and coalition forces are advancing on Iraq. Images of a giant statue of Saddam Hussein crashing to the ground in Baghdad are being beamed to news channels around the world. Nineteen-year-old Specialist Cassandra Wigheard, on her first deployment since joining the US army two years earlier, is primed for war.
For Abu al-Hool, a jihadist since the days of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, war is wearing thin. Two decades of fighting – and the new wave of super-radicalised fighters joining the ranks in the wake of the September 11 attacks – have left him questioning his commitment to the struggle.
When Cassandra is taken prisoner by al-Hool’s mujahideen brotherhood, both fighters will find their loyalties tested to the very limits.
This fast-paced, hard-hitting account of eight weeks in the lives of a soldier and her captor forces us to reconsider the simplistic narratives of war spun by those in power. With its privileged insight into the reality of armed combat, Spoils shines a light on the uncertainty, fear and idealism that characterised the early days of one of the most important conflicts of our time.
She is the most dangerous thing around.
WHAT I THOUGHT
I really wanted to love Spoils because it’s so well written, gripping and fast paced but I couldn’t quite bring myself to love it. I couldn’t get on board with the subject matter which made me uncomfortable at times. It’s weird, I read horror and thriller especially ones with serial killers and they don’t faze me, yet a book about Iraq. Afghanistan and soldiers unsettles me? I guess because the fear and horror depicted is so real? Terrorism is the only thing in the world that really frightens me so Spoils was way outside my comfort zone. It is an important book and a story that needs to be told I’m just glad I finished reading it. What really unnerved me is that some chapters are written from Cassandra’s viewpoint and some from the terrorist who kidnaps her. These voices are very powerful and unsettling at times. I had similar feelings when I read the memoir American Sniper so I guess books, both fiction and non-fiction about modern warfare is not my thing.