Tuesday, September 8, 2015
The Illuminations by Andrew O'Hagen
This book juxtaposes a grandmother and her grandson. Anne is a woman who we are led to think has had a full and adventurous life that the reader gets a glimpse of through the photographs she has. Anne herself is fading, but she wants to return to Blackpool, a city with emotional resonance for her.
Anne’s internal conflict is counterpointed by a second, interlinked storyline, which follows her grandson, Luke, a captain with the Royal Western Fusiliers, who is on a tour of duty in Afghanistan and part of a convoy taking equipment to the electricity plant at Kajaki. In contrast to the contemplative passages detailing Anne’s enigmatic past, the passages in Afghanistan are a blaze of action and banter. The life of a modern-day soldier is vividly and disturbingly portrayed, and wraps up with a battle that goes terribly wrong, psychologically wounding Luke. He and Anne come together at the end of the book in a powerful way that is almost haunting.