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: Pat Barker, Béla Zombory-Moldován's The Burning of the World.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B