Catherine Hall's The Repercussions had sat on my shelf for much longer than it should have before I finally got around to reading it. I think I'd bought it after reading a couple of positive reviews online and I was drawn to the slightly more unusual perspective on WW1. The Repercussions is not particularly groundbreaking and, for someone who has read an inordinate amount of war literature, it's possibly a little predictable. Nevertheless, it's really a rather good book and has stuck with me, floating somewhere at the back of my mind, since I finished it.
The Repercussions is a dual-narrative novel. One strand is told from the perspective of Jo, a war photographer back from Afghanistan and struggling to make sense of the things she went through there. The other strand is Elizabeth's story, shared through diary entries Jo found in the house she inherits from her Aunt. Elizabeth was a nurse in The Royal Pavilion and found herself torn between love and duty.
I was reminded of Sam Baker's The Woman Who Ran and Pat Barker's Double Vision (at least I think it's Double Vision). It seems that writing about war correspondents and photographers gives authors the opportunity to address trauma from a different perspective. Hall has taken that one step further by paralleling modern day war trauma with shell shock and the mental repercussions of the First World War.
This book addresses a multitude of subjects, all of which are acutely relevant to one another. Using Brighton as the geographical base allows Hall to focus on the nurses and soldiers in the Brighton Royal Pavilion, which then allows her to explore issues of race, gender, class and sexuality in one fell swoop. Jo's narrative also deals with some quite difficult topics, including life under the Taliban rule, but Hall has a delicate touch and avoids sensationalising.
Beyond the deeper issues explored through the two narratives, the overarching story and Jo's movements through post-war life make for fascinating reading. However, I certainly wasn't prepared for the blow we're dealt on the final page. Generally I really enjoyed The Repercussions and would recommend it to anyone interested in war fiction. I even stayed up late to finish it which is rare for me these days!
Have you read The Repercussions?