Reconciliation for the Dead by Paul E. Hardisty
Today on Books, Life and Everything, I am talking about Reconciliation for the Dead, published by Orenda Books. It is the sequel to the critically acclaimed The Abrupt Physics of Dying and The Evolution of Fear and once more features Claymore Straker.
Fresh from events in Yemen and Cyprus, vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker returns to South Africa, seeking absolution for the sins of his past. Over four days, he testifies to Desmond Tutu’s newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recounting the shattering events that led to his dishonourable discharge and exile, fifteen years earlier.
It was 1980. The height of the Cold War. Clay is a young paratrooper in the SouthAfrican Army, fighting in Angola against the Communist insurgency that threatens to topple the White Apartheid regime. On a patrol deep inside Angola, Clay, and his best friend, Eben Barstow, find themselves enmeshed in a tangled conspiracy that threatens everything they have been taught to believe about war, and the sacrifices that they, and their brothers in arms, are expected to make. Witness and unwitting accomplice to an act of shocking brutality, Clay changes allegiance and finds himself labelled a deserter and accused of high treason, setting him on a journey into the dark, twisted heart of institutionalised hatred, from which no one will emerge unscathed.
Based on true events from recent history in South Africa, it is a shocking yet engaging read. When I first opened the book, my heart fell a little at the sight of the glossary. but it did prepare me for a complex and involved story. It also meant that I got the message from the off-go: this author really cares that the reader understands his book. Fast paced, there is plenty of action but some brutal scenes which are difficult to read.
Even more so than the plot or the characters what strikes me most about this book is how well it is written. The author's use of language is distinctive with such a variety of sentence structure whilst the African landscape and the atmosphere is evoked beautifully. As I read it, at times, I felt as though I was right there. The author is in control, taking us back and forward in time and contrasting the hot, dusty action with the cooler, rather emotionless Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I really could feel that fifteen years had passed.
In short: a brutal, shocking story wrapped up in evocative prose.
About the Author
Canadian Paul Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels. In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and Director of Australia’s national land, water, ecosystems and climate adaptation research programmes. He is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia.
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