Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Behind the Forgotten Front, A WWII Novel by Barbara Hawkins

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Read: May 9, 2015

It’s 1942 and Harry Flynn leaves behind the love of his life to journey into a world of tigers, elephants, and Himalayan Mountains. Here he must take risks if he is to survive. He enlists to fight in the war, expecting to find the thrill of danger and honor of military service. Instead of a fighting position, Harry is sent to the Forgotten Front in the Indian subcontinent as an ordinary supply officer. There, General Joseph ‘Vinegar Joe’ Stilwell is constructing a ‘road to nowhere’ through Japanese-occupied Burma. The general will do anything to get the road built. In this exotic world with Naga headhunters, opium smoking kachin tribesmen, and marauders who scorn both life and death,Harry forges unlikely friendships. He’s also forced to obey orders that challenge his principles and is torn between being true to himself or ‘no man at all.’ Not willing to let Uncle Sam needlessly condemn the road crew to death, he rebels. He tries to sabotage the road’s progress where an all-black construction regiment is losing a man a mile due to disease and crumbling lopes. Then a commanding officer spots his unconventional skills. Immediately he’s transferred to America’s first guerrilla-supported unit: Merrill’s Marauders and later the Mars Task Force. Here, he must entrust his life to others. During a time when boys were forced to come of age on the battlefield, Harry must find what makes his life worth living or die. The lessons learned in World War II apply to all wars, where men walk away carrying unspeakable memories and lives that 'could have been' haunt those that lived. Behind the Forgotten Front brings them all back to life and shows that history is about facts driven by passions and sometimes the mistakes of real people. 

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I love starting off my reviews with confessions and today is no exception. When the offer came to review Behind the Forgotten Front, A WWII Novel by Barbara Hawkins, I was intrigued, but I was also skeptical. I’m a sucker for WWII novels, but the cover art wasn’t doing it for me. I was hesitant and questioned what it was I’d gotten myself into. Boy do I love being proved wrong. 

For the record, Hawkins style took me a while to get into, but in terms of content, I loved everything about this piece. The exotic setting added a great deal of perspective to the conflict and lent the narrative a refreshing sense of originality. There is also a lot of internal conflict in Harry Flynn and I really appreciated the insight that offered to men of this particular generation. He’s a complex character I thought Hawkins did a great job illustrating the layers of his personality. 

In short, Behind the Forgotten Front was not what I expected. It proved me wrong in the best possible way and I greatly enjoyed the time I spent with it. I’m still not a fan of the cover, but I’d easily recommend the piece to anyone with an interest in WWII fiction. 

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“It’s not guts you’re going to need— its smarts, in case we’re walking into a trap. All I want is to go home.”
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