It is the spring of 2003 and coalition forces are advancing on Iraq. Images of a giant statue of Saddam Hussein crashing to the ground in Baghdad are being beamed to news channels around the world. Nineteen-year-old Specialist Cassandra Wigheard, on her first deployment since joining the US army two years earlier, is primed for war.

For Abu al-Hool, a jihadist since the days of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, war is wearing thin. Two decades of fighting – and the new wave of super-radicalised fighters joining the ranks in the wake of the September 11 attacks – have left him questioning his commitment to the struggle.

When Cassandra is taken prisoner by al-Hool’s mujahideen brotherhood, both fighters will find their loyalties tested to the very limits.

This fast-paced, hard-hitting account of eight weeks in the lives of a soldier and her captor forces us to reconsider the simplistic narratives of war spun by those in power. With its privileged insight into the reality of armed combat, Spoils shines a light on the uncertainty, fear and idealism that characterised the early days of one of the most important conflicts of our time.

My thoughts:
It is spring 2003 and coalition forces are advancing on Iraq. This was a well written tale: and the experience of the author shows through. His time in the US Army as a tank crewman is essential to telling of this story, which covers eight weeks during the early stages of the war.
A brilliant first chapter sets the stage for a fantastic read. An American tank patrol comes under attack and become prisoners of war.
The tale is told from three points of view.
Nineteen year old Specialist Cassandra Wigheard
Sleed a tank crewman who is a man on the lookout for number one.
Abu al-Hool, a jihadist since the days of the Soviet occupation ofAfghanistan, for whom war is wearing thin.
What I liked was the way the author can paint the bigger picture and also the everyday minutiae of everyday living.
This book is well written. The chaos ,brutality and visceral nature of war and combat.
We can hear the noise, we smell the blood. We can feel the fear.
His writing is superb. His powers of description are superb. One instance where he likens tracer bullets to arrows fired from the ramparts of a medieval castle. Death is death in whatever form it comes.
If I have one complaint is I couldn’t warm to the character Sleed. But I suppose he was essential to the story.
A good read and worth 5 stars.
Well done Brian Van Reet.

The Author:

Brian Van Reet 

Brian Van Reet


Houston, The United States 




Brian Van Reet was born in Houston. Following the September 11 attacks, he left the University of Virginia and enlisted in the U.S. Army as a tank crewman. He served in Iraq and received a Bronze Star for valor. His writing has been recognized with awards and fellowships, including from the Michener Center for Writers, and has appeared in the Guardian, the New York Times, the Iowa Review, and many others. He has twice won the Texas Institute of Letters short story award. His first novel, Spoils, will be published in five languages.







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