I eagerly anticipated reading the second novel from Sadie Jones as I absolutely loved The Outcast last year. Small Wars is a moving, emotional read, set mainly in Cyprus during the 1950s. The main character, Hal Treherne, is seemingly an army man for life, following in his father's and grandfather's footsteps, and after a posting in Germany, he moves to Cyprus with his wife Clara, and his young twin daughters, and after a temporary home, they move to live with the other families on the base. There is a real sense of the heat and stifling atmosphere of the island evoked in the novel, and the pressures and demands of all aspects of army life are starkly portrayed.
The events on Cyprus that Hal bears witness to, as the British attempt to defend this colony, have a devastating effect on him and his marriage. This novel tells of a man and a family terribly damaged by the conflicting demands of duty and love, following orders and knowing the difference between right and wrong, and how this can become blurred. It portrays a man's internal agonies in the face of serving his country alongside those around him, however they might behave, and at facing up to his own doubts and weaknesses. Additionally we experience the struggle that Hal has to verbalise or express in any way the life-changing feelings he experiences. The events in Cyprus prove to be a test of the strength of love between Hal and Clara, and test their marriage to the limits. I found this a moving and intelligent read, with situations at times having parallels with the modern day.