Monday 24 October 2016

Fiction: Good Hope Road by Sarita Mandanna

Weidenfeld & Nicholson €18.99

Anne Cunningham

Published 10/10/2016 | 02:30

Good Hope Road by Sarita Mandanna
Good Hope Road by Sarita Mandanna

There's a road called Good Hope Road in Washington, D.C. and many of the events in Sarita Mandanna's second novel occur around Good Hope Road in 1932, as America's WWI veterans march for the passing of the Bonus Bill, legislation entitling war veterans to a decent income and health care. Vietnam and Afghanistan veterans still have these same issues today.

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But this is not a political novel, rather it is a tale of how WW1 affected a rich New England heir and his unlikely best friend, a dirt-poor young black man from Louisiana.

James and Obadaiah are in Paris when war breaks out, and both decide to join the French Foreign Legion. Had they known the horrors that lay ahead, they might have just gone home.

Years later, they have lost contact and James is practically estranged from his adult son Jim. When Jim meets an actress from Boston, Madeleine, things change. Madeleine is determined to mend the rift between father and son.

With much persuasion, James Senior eventually decides to do something about his post-war embitterment and so lobbies the press about furthering the veterans' Bonus Bill. What starts out as a letter of complaint leads to a national movement, and a new lease of life for James Senior.

The story sweeps from one World War to the next, as Mandanna explores themes of family, friendship, race, civil rights and the utter futility of war.

Epic in its scope, yet beautifully intimate and poetic in its style, it's a keeper.

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