No Man’s Land
Simon Tolkien is a masterful storyteller. Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather J.R.R. Tolkien in World War I, Simon Tolkien’s latest novel is a delicious concoction of family drama, romance, and war. After growing up penniless with his parents in London and witnessing firsthand the dangerous conditions of working in a coal mine in Scarsdale, tragedy launches Adam Raine into the wealthy home of Sir John Scarsdale. Soon he falls in love with Miriam, the parson’s daughter, while creating an adversary of Sir John’s youngest son, Brice. When the war breaks out and draws Adam to the trenches, all that he holds dear is threatened.
Though Tolkien does not use fantasy to write about the war as his legendary grandfather did, his voice, subject, and attitude certainly echo J.R.R.’s work. The novel’s plot is occasionally predictable and is plagued by a number of deaths, which at times feel forced and altogether unbelievable. However, these shortcomings are easily forgiven by Tolkien’s gift at thoughtfully creating each character, all of which stays with the reader long after reading the novel’s final sentence. Furthermore, with impeccable word choice, Tolkien conjures affecting scenes that never lag in excitement or emotion. No Man’s Land is highly recommended.
Nan A. Talese
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