The Gun Room
Photographs of the Vietnam War have seared their way into the American psyche. While no war is pristine, the post-traumatic stress syndrome from the Vietnam War is described by Harding in this haunting novel.
Jonathan, a war photographer, snaps one photograph that becomes famous more for what it doesn’t say than for what it depicts. The picture shows a young soldier sitting against a wall, his knees bent to his chest, a blank stare disconnected from the viewer and two hands grabbing the barrel of his gun. In the background is a village burning. The reader must decide whether the picture conveys the sense of normal warfare or is exposing a travesty of cryptic and unnecessary violence. The remainder of this novel concerns the journey of the photographer and the boy in the photo, who travel to Japan to hide. But Jonathan hasn’t planned on meeting a Japanese girl, Kumiko, whose father carries his own war wounds and memories. Kumiko is the catalyst who elicits honesty and truth regarding the past and present.
The essence of this brief but poignant story concerns what a photographer is portraying beyond surface appearances, pictures of light and shadow that have literal and metaphorical parallels in times of war and times of peace. The contrast among England’s verdant hills, Vietnam’s lush but devastated paddies and fields, and Tokyo’s glittery displays both soothes and jolts the American soldiers. The more insidious question for Jonathan and all American servicemen and women is, “Can and how do we truly go home?” Notable historical fiction containing intense beauty, surrealistic pain, and revealing perception!