Monday, 26 September 2011

What Passing Bells

Is British novelist Neil Blower, author of Shell Shock: the Diary of Tommy Atkins this generations Ernest Hemingway? A bold comparison maybe, to make about a debut author but with so little being written of substance, about Britain’s decade long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, maybe we should be asking if it is a possibility?

Hemingway was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century and his works have sold millions around the world. Hemingway also had the ability to convey powerful emotions and say a lot with a few words, what he could say in a single page, many other’s couldn’t do in ten.

His work was highly influenced by his experiences at War, having served as an ambulance driver during World War One, was involved with the Spanish Civil War and later as a correspondent, even covered the Allied entry into Paris during World War Two.

These influences on his writing were profound, his novels “For whom the bell tolls” and “a farewell to arms” being two of the more famous examples of the effects of war but seeing as though we all know Ernest Hemingway, let us now turn our attention to Neil Blower.

Neil Blower is a former solider, who served in the Royal Tank Regiment in Kosovo and throughout the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The experiences of what the British government started in Iraq and the subsequent consequences, caused this young man to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It was only after Neil Blower’s participation in Iraq, that he developed a passion for writing and literature, undertaking a creative writing and English Literature degree at the University of Salford.

Neil Blower’s writing is equally influenced by his experiences of war, which is illustrated in his debut novel, Shell Shock: The Diary of Tommy Atkins, which tells the story of a young British solider and his life as a civilian back home in Britain.

Shell Shock is also a testament to some of the flippant attitudes in “modern” Britain, whom you wouldn’t think was still at war in Afghanistan and Neil Blower has taken his book even further, by giving the young Tommy Atkins the life long traumatic condition, that used to be known as “Shell Shock”.

It’s a short book but it’s one of the most profound and brutally honest works I’ve come across for a very long time. In a single entry of this diary styled book, Blower can make you laugh or cry and at the end, leaves you with the same haunting sensation, that few author’s besides Pat Barker, Hemmingway, Owen and Sassoon manage to successfully achieve.

I first met Neil Blower through the mental health charity Combat Stress, of which Neil is donating one pound from every copy of Shell Shock sold and after having been allowed to read through a pre-published copy of his book, the first poem I felt drawn to was Aftermath, by World War One poet Siegfried Sassoon, who once asked the question, that it appears Neil Blower is now asking the reader himself: “Have you forgotten yet? Look down and swear by the slain of the war, that you’ll never forget!

Shell Shock: The Diary of Tommy Atkins by Neil Blower. ISBN: 9781908487025

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