Thursday, 5 January 2012

Review for The Whole Rotten Edifice

Authonomy user Jeff Shear (aka wordgopher) has posted this generous review for the first part of my historical novel, The Whole Rotten Edifice. Many thanks to Jeff.

"In the first moments of his historical fiction, The Whole Rotten Edifice, author Tony Judge neatly laces one of World War Two's enduring mysteries to a certain truth, the fact that momentous times are invisible to those whom they engulf. In this case, the book opens on the grand question of Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union, which asks – to borrow a phrase from American history -- what did Stalin know about Hitler's plans to invade the Soviet Union and when did he know it? 

Rendering a historical challenge of that magnitude through the incongruities of the human spirit signals not just a good read but an intelligent one, and necessarily fictional. 

The book's opening is inked with the strokes of a calvary saber. Great plains roll from Berlin to Moscow, soon to be plowed by artillerymen; a dirt road is as potholed as Stalin's collectives; and a Russian commander is less trusted by the Soviet peasants of Belorussia than the Nazi formations grinding toward their dry fields.

Judge signals his control of events – and specifically those particularly difficult to describe events of movement, shock and chaos – through tight close-ups and acute characterization: the brief clip of a weary chestnut plow horse's “great hind muscles” glossy and rippling with effort; an unintended phrase swollen with portent -- the request by a peasant for a doctor who will be “busy very soon” -- snatched instantly for its significance by a Russian general, a man we will come to admire for his patience and doomed initiative.

“At 4am as he trudged across the compound to his quarters... a low hum in the West resolved into a solid wave of aircraft engine noise.” Yes, our general realizes, doctors will be necessary. 

Then instantly, the scope of the Nazi onslaught is instantly upon us. “...the pause between each flash and its accompanying explosion grew briefer and briefer until it disappeared.” Those are the doors of death slamming shut, and our hero dives through them into a crowded shelter, as if body surfing their blast waves.

Can Judge keep this up? I don't know. But I feel I am in grasp of tour de force that promises to join the ranks of literature through the microcosm of the archetypal Russian general, who may well have saved the world; and his daughter, one of the daring women snipers who picked apart the advancing Nazi infantry, and who may well have saved those archetypal Russian Generals . 

I've been over this battlefield several times now, and recognize a writer in command of his characters, their predicaments and antagonists, as well as the human factor, the very close but always impossible human distance that exists between father and daughter."

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