The Open Arms of the Sea

Written by Jasper Dorgan
Review by Helen Hollick

I nearly forwarded The Open Arms of the Sea to one of my UK Indie Review Team, but I decided to read it myself, despite trepidation that this was not my type of reading subject. 20th century war? Not my thing at all! Which just goes to show that, as a reader, you never know what surprises lay between the covers of an Indie  novel.

The British Army in the early 1960s. Lieutenant Leslie Deacon has the sexual guilt of his youth to come to terms with, and he has chosen to flee from his past by joining the army. And what a place to hide in – the rocky desert of war-torn Aden, where death or serious injury lurks behind every boulder, in every gulley, and around the bend in every street. The guerrilla war escalates as the Adoo rebels bring their terror into the city, and the story initially seems as if it is to be a detailed account of military life under intense fire – but from the opening sentence the characters, some good, some bad, and some  indifferent,  come alive. From Lt. Deacon and his Corporal, Lockett, to the  men under Deacon’s  command and various other  officers these characters were real and so believable.

There are beautiful and fascinating  descriptions of the desert, horrifying acts of deliberate violence. The stark humour of soldiers, their hidden feelings and outward tensions; the exchanges of anger, the  buried fears and the complexity of relationships between men on the edge of possible death or maiming. Add to this, the idiocy of senior officers and Deacon’s lonely  feelings and his craving for love and the result is one heck of a good read.

Through the backdrop of war, sometimes vivid in its detailed description, the  writing is consistently superb. I was drawn in from the first page, touched by the characters and engrossed in the clever dialogue, which often portrayed a feel of realistic banter between the men. The end is thrilling, horrifying, absorbing and stunning.

This is the sort of novel that gives all Indie writers hope. Equal to anything mainstream that I have read it is a book worth reading. If only all Indie books could be this good.