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To ask other readers questions about The Letter Bearer , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Mar 02, Tuck rated it it was amazing Shelves: For as long as there have been wars, soldiers have suffered serious memory issues. These are usually characterized by repeatedly reliving traumatic events accompanied by a cluster of attendant symptoms known today as post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD.

With his characters, setting and plot, Al For as long as there have been wars, soldiers have suffered serious memory issues. With his characters, setting and plot, Allison admirably evokes the important relevant issues, including loss of and efforts to recover identity, and a sense of isolation and displacement that accompanies memory loss. His insignias are missing, as is his memory. He believes that he might be a dispatch rider since he carried a postbag filled with letters written by soldiers from a British tank regiment.

To him, these letters represent a link to the more benevolent world he left behind.


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He sees himself as one of the letter writers, but the reader may well be justified in doubting that. There are no heroes in this band of deserters. Instead, Allison gives us a group of desperate men without a leader, with only vague goals and little honor.


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  • Each can be described with simple descriptors: These serve as wonderful counterpoints to emphasize the senselessness and brutality of the war. Unfortunately, the mood Allison succeeds in creating occasionally is broken by excessively lyrical prose, and the questionable ability of this small group of men to lug around all of things required to move the plot forward—water, food, cooking implements, multiple weapons, ammunition, tents, a seemingly endless supply of fuel for the recovered tank, etc.

    Was it really necessary to have Lucchi lug those chickens all over the desert? A bit of a different 'take' on the war theme, set during the North Africa campaign in WW2. This is the story of a British motorcycle dispatch rider whose name is never revealed - he has hit a mine and is lying seriously injured, is robbed of his papers and personal possessions by passing Germans and local tribesmen and left to die.

    The only thing he still has is his pouch of letters that he was delivering or was he? He is rescued by a small band of British soldiers who he learns are deserters A bit of a different 'take' on the war theme, set during the North Africa campaign in WW2. He is rescued by a small band of British soldiers who he learns are deserters - they are holed up in an isolated location.

    The story is essentially that of the various tensions within the group and of the rider trying to remember who he is and coming to terms with this. Wonderfully told and very absorbing and well-written for a first novel. This is on the shortlist of three for the Desmond Elliott Prize, to be announced shortly. I'm a sucker for a war story, and I absolutely loved this book.

    The Letter Bearer by Robert Allison review – a man's attempt to remember

    I particularly loved the writing - the desert crackles off the page from the very beginning: The shadows of rock pylons newly canted, lazy clock hands across the desert floor. No perpendiculars, only inclinations, a parchment of obliques. Apr 19, Emily Webb rated it liked it. Grabbed this off the Good Reads shelf at the library on my way out of town. A quick, easy read, but didn't hold my attention well.

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    You're introduced to the rider who has been in an accident and lost his memory or has he? Sep 05, Toni Chanakas rated it it was ok.

    I was excited to read this book - intriguing premise; A rider left for dead where he has no knowledge of who he is. I love this type of stuff. Unfortunately, I couldn't get into it. I was, quite frankly, bored with the writing style where I needed to read the page more than once. The best part of the novel was the letters and there weren't that many to read.

    I wasn't empathetic with any of the characters especially the people who found the rider were deserters. The only character I liked was par I was excited to read this book - intriguing premise; A rider left for dead where he has no knowledge of who he is. The only character I liked was part three - the dying man - Major Ingram. For a page book, it took me longer to read this book than it should have.

    I really wanted to like this book. Perhaps it is that they are indeed ghosts of desertion. Dec 02, Clare Smith rated it did not like it. Mar 04, Lily rated it liked it Shelves: The premise of this novel was more interesting and exciting than the actual novel turned out to be. The main character wakes up in a desert during WW2, with no memory of who he is or how he came to be there, with the only clues to his identity being the letters in his bag, and is rescued by a band of deserters.

    Sounds like a great setup, and the first chapters were indeed probably the best in this novel. But really, nothing much happened. The plot was thin on the ground, with awkwardly-placed ti The premise of this novel was more interesting and exciting than the actual novel turned out to be. The plot was thin on the ground, with awkwardly-placed time skips and an ending that made me feel the whole journey was a waste of time, as the Rider had literally learned nothing through his experiences. Their motives were shallowly explored, and their dynamic was predictable and formulaic.

    The Rider himself was tedious to read, unemotional over his own condition and events during the novel. The letters as a plot device also might have been more interesting, but they were barely touched upon. Memory-wise, this novel was a bit of an inconsistent mess because of the timeskips.


    • The Letter Bearer by Robert Allison, review?
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    • He just never came alive, never felt real. I can understand how this approach can represent the logical and cool demeanour of soldiers, but I struggle to believe that the front goes deeper. War is an incredibly traumatic experience, but there was no real sense of any of the characters really being affected by it, despite all of them choosing to desert. The one thing I really did appreciate in this novel, though, which stopped it dropping down to two stars, was the historical and military detail. Also, the sense of place was strong, with plain but detailed descriptions of the various rugged landscapes.

      Allison did his research in those areas, if nothing else. I just wish there had been more substance to this book overall, in both character and plot. Sep 21, Shirley Albright rated it liked it Shelves: A difficult book to read because of the brutality. But it is their resourcefulness, not their rank, that will determine whether they survive. Soldiers in adversity can do terrible things, and there are some unsparing descriptions of crucified corpses and badly disfigured bodies, as the dog-eat-dog logic of war is followed through to its inexorable conclusion.

      But there is light and shade, too. Best of all are the letters home to England, as simple as they are poignant. Some of the writing is a bit uneven. Allison strains for poetic effect, a common fault in a first-time novelist. But the basic story is strong, and delivered with an unerring eye for detail.

      The literature of war is as old as literature itself, and this harrowing novel is a fine addition to it. Granta, pp, Telegraph offer price: Call or see books.

      The Letter Bearer A Novel

      Here's how restrictions apply. Review "daringly, debut novelist Allison makes the story all his own Counterpoint February 9, Language: Start reading The Letter Bearer: A Novel on your Kindle in under a minute. Don't have a Kindle? Try the Kindle edition and experience these great reading features: Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. Showing of 3 reviews. Top Reviews Most recent Top Reviews. There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. Robert Allison's debut novel reminded me a little of "Going after Caccatio", Tim O'Brien's brilliant saga of a group of US soldiers who walk away from the Vietnam War, mixed with Michael Ondaatje's "The English Patient" about a mysterious wounded soldier with no identity.

      The Letter Bearer by Robert Allison review – a man's attempt to remember | Books | The Guardian

      Allison's characters are fighting several wars at once - against the stark, inhospitable landscape, against time, against memory and against each other. All have a death sentence of one kind or another hanging over them and eventually have only what they each carry and their individual inner strengths to draw on to survive. The Letter Bearer who carries the lightest load, is the most heavily burdened and has the furthest distance of all to go.

      A little over-written at times, this is an intriguing, thought provoking and gripping read. Loved this heart breaking book. He has no memory and he has been stripped of all identification.