I was attracted to both the cover and description of this book quite a few months ago, so I was over the moon when the publisher offered to send me a paperback copy to review. Firstly, I’d like to apologise to the author and publisher for taking so long to review this book. I allowed my husband to help me tidy the house one day, resulting in the book going missing. I feared he had put it out with the recycling, but as if by magic it reappeared a few weeks ago. I’m so pleased it did, as this is a great book I’m so pleased not to have missed out on.
On the face of it, Real Monsters is a book about war and terrorism. However, once you get into the story, it is clear that this isn’t just about the goodies fighting the baddies, it takes you beyond the physical acts of violence, covering the physical and emotional impact war has on soldiers, and what it is like for family left at home while their loved ones are fighting in another country. It makes you question, what are we fighting for? Who are the real monsters in all of this? Does war create more monsters rather than rid the world of them?
Real Monsters is very emotive and thought provoking. Having given my heart and soul to this book, I was a bit of a wreck by the end, having the urge to cry hysterical tears. I managed to hold them back, but it wasn’t easy. I’m not even sure exactly why it left me feeling so emotional, be it my own personal involvement with the military or my frustration at the world, but it did, and in my eyes, that’s the sign of a well written novel.
I loved the format of this book, the way the story is told in the form of letters, alternating between a man and a woman writing to their son. I think this was very cleverly done, and covered two very different angles of the same situation.
The sections written by the soldier, were graphic and brutal, and some of the language, although most of which I can confirm is very much authentic, some readers may find offensive. I did question one particular word with my husband, which he says he’s not personally heard being used during his time in the military, but with the exception of that one word, all other, shall we say, nicknames were familiar to my husband and myself, making the soldier’s experiences feel even more real. These sections moved slower than those from Lorna’s viewpoint, but that made sense, after all, how fast does time pass when you’re on a military mission in the desert.
As both a female and someone who is married to a man who has been in the Royal Navy for 15 years, I found it really easy to relate to Lorna. After many years, having a husband going away for long period of time does get easier. I remember the days when he was away for two weeks feeling like forever, but nowadays a fortnight goes by in a flash. One thing that never gets easier are the goodbyes though, especially when he’s going away for a few months. Those goodbyes are heart-breaking and I can feel my heart racing just thinking about it. I did have a giggle at Lorna going to the Military Spouses Meet-up club, as I was a member of the Navy Wives Club many years ago, and the wives there were also at least 2, more like 3 decades older than me.
Although, Lorna’s story was the one I connected with the most, the soldier’s letters are a constant reminder that this is going on somewhere, right now. Turning a blind eye to it because you either don’t approve of war or just don’t wish to think about it, doesn’t make it any less real for those involved. People are dying every day because we as humans haven’t yet grasped how to get on with each other.
You can choose to stick your head in the sand, or you can read books like this that make you think about a very real situation that is going on now. Then you could pass the book onto someone else, and have a conversation about it, and perhaps one day when enough of us talk about this kind of thing, we might come up with a solution to rid our world of hatred and violence without the use of further hatred and violence. What a wonderful world that would be.