In the Wolf’s Mouth
Set mostly in the battlegrounds of North Africa and Italy in the Second World War, this is a poetic and beautifully observed novel. The two main characters who alternate the narrative are William Walker, a rather pompous junior recruit in British field intelligence, and Ray Marfione, US infantry of Italian ethnic background. Both are deployed to North Africa, where Ray endures some traumatic fighting, while Will’s opinion of his limited abilities is inflated. They then are moved to Sicily to engage the retreating Axis forces – Ray to fight, while Will is given the task of assisting in law enforcement and filling in the vacuum created by the departure of the Fascist administration. But he comes up against the local Sicilian vendettas and long-running disputes that continue, and in some cases are made worse, by the military conflict.
The descriptions of the fighting are excellent and seem authentic to a non-combatant. Likewise, the understanding of motivations and the analysis of character and behaviour have a genuine and intelligent essence that fully engages the reader in the experiences of the main players in this tale. This is a story about war and its pervasive influence examines the human condition under such times of terrible stress, as well as periods of boredom and anomie.
332 (UK), 336 (US)