by Philip Gray
Londoner Philip Gray is the new necromancer of war. Gray has conjured a female protagonist on the European Front, searching for her fiancee circa 1918 . Standing in the aftermath of WWI, “Two Storm Wood” is a gothic romance with psychological punch. The sordid aspects of war are horrendous as in the Kevin Powers, Iraq war novel “ The Yellow Birds” and as in the Karl Marlantes, Viet Nam sorties in his novel, “Matterhorn”; but here, we are not in battle~ but picking up the pieces. There are 5,000 unburied bodies for every mile walked. Identification of the dead plays the most prominently, disfigurement second, and madness third.
Character driven and thematically focused, “Two Storm Wood” pits practical and idealistic souls in war’s moral morass. Great foreshadowing in this heavily plotted tale keeps mystery alive. Underground chambers, colonies of rats, shell holes and trenches cut through burial sites mix with tagged bodies and demented deserters. Dread builds, drugs, atrocities accumulate; racism and privilege raise their heads. War is seen as a contest of violence not virtue. Amy, our protagonist, is in the vortex like no other heroine I can recall since Jane Eyre. Masterfully done.