Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Simple Mind by Jordan Taylor

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: November 23, 2014

Private Sharp would never be accused of over-thinking orders. Or anything else. Simultaneously the butt of jokes and recipient of confidences, fears, and fantasies shared by his comrades, Sharp is, in many ways, the perfect soldier. What finally sets this simple infantryman apart, however, will reach beyond isolated trenches in a way those serving with him could never have fathomed.

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Personally, the subject matter in A Simple Mind made it the most difficult of the Great War Centennial series. Private Sharp is slow, but the bullying he experiences and the consistency with which he’s taken advantage of because of his condition took a lot out of me. Much more than I’d anticipated with a piece only twenty-three pages in length. 

More than the rest of the series, A Simple Mind illustrates the brutal realities of life on the front and the mentality of those struggling to survive the trenches. Taylor’s portrayal is unapologetically crude and carnal. Again, there is no Author’s Note to verify Taylor’s intent, but I found the contrast in the savagery she created and Private Sharp’s naïve innocence striking on a number of levels. 

And as much I deplore the idea of someone being victimized as Sharp is here, I can’t ignore the fact that the prejudice he suffers ultimately saves his life and immortalizes those who fell in No Man’s Land. Like the other books in the series, A Simple Mind has an acute and stirring message that rivals those seen in fully developed narratives. 

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“You’re a good lad. You know—” Gran looked around to the deserted firebay. It was lunchtime in the third line and even shelling sounded as distant as the first roll of thunder. “I don’t think any one of those duffers gives a damn. They don’t mind living like this. It’s all gas over the same jam and lice everywhere, but they don’t give a damn about anything important. I only want to sit a spell in a park: hear birds, see children playing in the fountain,beautiful colors on the ladies’ gowns. What’s one tin of jam and a few bugs compared to that?”
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