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In The Light Of Morning – Tim Pears Review

In The Light Of Morning – Tim Pears Review

in-the-light-of-morningReleased: January 2015

If I had to describe Tim Pears’ In The Light of Morning in one word, it would be beautiful, but that would be closely followed by powerful.

Beginning in May 1944, this novel centres on Tom Freedman, a lieutenant in the British army with a gift for languages, as he is literally pushed out of an airplane over German-occupied Slovenia to become a part of a relief task force sent to provide the fighting Partisans with supplies and weapons and further their cause. Soon, however, Tom finds himself separated from his superiors and becomes the senior British officer within a different group, where he is joined by Commander Jovan and a resourceful fighter named Marija, among others. Over the course of three months, this group travel to provide groups of Partisans with the materials they need to destroy the railway network used by the Germans and force them out of the country for good.

When I think about this novel, I think of it in contradictions: it’s a story about a country and its people, but also about an outsider’s experience of a foreign land. It’s the tale of an army of Partisans who have come together to fight against German occupation of their home but they are an army of circumstance or, as the narrator puts it, “an army of amateurs; a revolutionary army”. It is truly a story of uncertainty during a pivotal moment of history within a world when nothing was guaranteed. Even the characters are representative of these differences as they become a melting pot of British classes, Slovenes and Serbs who all have their own reasons for fighting, some with a bigger purpose than others.

I’ll admit that this is a country and a people that I know fairly little about, which is why I found Pears’ use of language so incredibly gratifying. His descriptions were gorgeous and contributed towards the creation of a realistic atmosphere that can only be admired. Pears’ writing was almost visceral, appealing to every single one of the reader’s senses to build up a greater impression of the world he is bringing to life.

More interesting for me, however, was his attention to the Slovene language. There are moments where Tom reflects on the language he is learning to speak, noting the grammar and the vocabulary and how it is formed to make sentences, and it is a refreshing approach that once again highlights Tom’s uneasy role in this new world – learning more about it with each day, but always slightly removed from its people and its politics.

The best way I can summarise this novel is to call it an experience, one that effortlessly blends one man’s wonder and joy of a new country and a new language with the hard graft of labour, and the collective experience of War. Granted, it’s also a bit confusing at times when you have to keep track of names, ranks, histories and relationships, and you can never really be sure of what is happening and who to trust. The present tense narrative, while interesting, can also prove to be a little jarring but you do ultimately settle into this writing style as the novel progresses.

In The Light of Morning is the study of a country under occupation and a people that are fighting for their independence, and it speaks volumes about the parts of war that are both painfully necessary and rarely talked about, as well as how the individuals involved cope with their role in the death and destruction of everything around them.


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