The Constant Soldier

Written by William Ryan

Review written by Adam Colclough

Adam Colclough lives and works in the West Midlands, he writes regularly for a number of websites, one day he will get round to writing a book for someone else to review.


The Constant Soldier
Pan; Main Market Ed. edition
RRP: £7.99
Released: June 1 2017
PBK

In the final months of World War Two a German soldier returns home from the Eastern Front. Paul Brandt is the eponymous Constant Soldier, a veteran of war who bears scars, both visible as well as invisible from the battles he has fought, and the battles he has lost.

He discovers that his village is living under the shadow of a special SS facility and home to some female prisoners and a number of ‘recuperating’ officers. One of the women in the village is linked to Brandt’s past, so he must find a way to keep her alive as things start to fall apart.

William Ryan has written a remarkable historical novel about the personal and political consequences of a corrupt regime coming to its end; with the little compromises made to get ahead or just to survive, that turn suddenly into debts that must be repaid.

Ryan paints skilful little vignettes of the people that pepper the narrative, such as the blustering local mayor, the SS officer with something on his conscience and others who have been made, as well as broken by the war.

Running concurrently is the story of Brandt finding a way to live with the things war has made him do, as well as what the war has done to him. As the Reich collapses into its final violent chaos he finds a possible route to righting past wrongs.

The historical detail is lucidly realised, from the meagre rations available on the home front and the awful taste of ersatz coffee, to the ever more desperate measures taken to hold back the advancing Soviet Army.

Ryan creates a world that is both alarming and believable, where redemption might be possible, but comes with a price.

In a word, William Ryan’s The Constant Soldier is – remarkable.



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