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Paperback Book Details
  • 09/2021
  • 9781922594341 B09CYZ7FCC
  • 236 pages
  • $20.00
A Soldier's Quartet
CONRAD BENTLEY ENJOYS HIS RETIREMENT. By chance, he comes across a letter from WWI — a German father writes about his grief of losing a son to war — buried by his three comrades near a small French village. The letter resonates with Conrad and he commits to researching its backstory. Months later, Conrad makes contact with the fallen soldier’s family. He falls deeper into their history and other untold stories from this era, including the fate of young Tasmanian soldiers who also fought on the Western Front. A Soldier’s Quartet is inspired by true events, a story of perseverance and happenstance that transcends time and reaches across continents. It presents the human faces behind uniforms and battle plans, conveys love and hope set against various landscapes. Conrad’s discovery of the letter brings the past into the present as he reflects on his own life and loss.
Reviews
Baldwin's debut, a heartfelt account of the lives of soldiers, is based on true events, with the lead character, Tasmanian retiree Conrad Bentley, looking to fill his days, joining a German-speaking group, a string quartet, and a boating crew. However, it’s his obsession with an old letter—written by a German father about the death of a son in the first world war—that gives him direction and drives the action of the narrative. Baldwin jumps back and forth in time to tell the stories of a group of German soldiers, a pair of Tasmanian natives who were also in the war, and Bentley’s life in the present. The story of the dead German soldier, Wolfgang, and his friends is remarkably warm and rich with detail. Baldwin starts with the death of Wolfgang and then reaches further back to examine the friendship of the four men, dubbed "the quartet" because they were so tight.

This group is obliquely connected to two Tasmanian soldiers whose close bond was tested by the horror of life in the trenches. Their eventual reunion proves deeply affecting thanks to the sensitivity of Baldwin's approach to the trauma of war as well as the depths of feeling between male friends that, often, society does not often encourage.

The emotional power of the scenes set in the past is not diminished by the story’s fast pace. The contemporary sections with Conrad, though, lag by comparison, with quotidian, diary-like detail slowing the narrative momentum, and only some of that material ties clearly into the book's themes (like the son of Conrad's friend getting mixed up with a neo-Nazi group). It’s when the tale creates connections with these soldiers from the past—characters who feel both wonderfully and painfully real—that A Soldier's Quartet is at its most powerful, a story about war that avoids easy cliches and packs an emotional wallop.

Takeaway: A remarkably humane account of camaraderie during war—and war’s human cost.

Great for fans of: TK

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: B

Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 09/2021
  • 9781922594341 B09CYZ7FCC
  • 236 pages
  • $20.00

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