Gvozden’s intense experiences as a soldier transform him from a level-headed farmer and devoted family man to a primal brute. The story depicts shocking acts, including the rape of Muslim women by rogue soldiers in Gvozden’s unit. The graphic violence captures the horrifying nature of war, and beneath the bloodshed lie philosophical questions: Are monsters born or created? If God exists, why does He allow evil? Bojčić doesn’t try to provide answers, instead leaving readers to grapple with the repercussions of violence on those who commit it as well as those it victimizes.
Bojčić’s experience as a Yugoslavian and a political refugee in the United States lends authority to the setting and subject. The characters and themes transcend the occasional translation and editing errors to create an intense, fast-paced journey guaranteed to haunt readers. This arresting drama draws back the curtain of war and focuses on the metamorphosis of men under the extreme stress of combat. Bojčić’s emotional and gripping portrayal of war will stick with history enthusiasts long after the final sentence.
Takeaway: Fans of war, military, and historical fiction will be enthralled by Bojčić’s heart-twisting depiction of the Bosnian War.
Great for fans of Sebastian Faulks’s Birdsong, Zlatko Dizdarević’s Sarajevo: A War Journal, Loung Ung’s First They Killed My Father.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: A-