Review: Iant by Steve Blandford – a bird’s eye view of love and war
Iant by Steve Blandford is a historical fiction novel set on the backstage of the Great War. There’s love, innocence, and the very real effects of what war can do to a person and family, especially to Welsh farm boy, Iant Evans.
Like many during wartime, Iant was forced to become a man too quickly. He was thrust into violence, yet there’s a sort of innocence about him that pulls me in as a reader. It’s as if he can “switch off” the blood and gore of the surrounding world and hone his focus on the simple things in life, like love.
For instance, as a soldier, he falls for a prostitute, one who doesn’t care about him. There’s a sort of charm to his persistence, how he wants to be with her so much he gets her name and address and then writes to her, hoping for a response. Yet, even in their face-to-face interactions, their conversation is strained.
But this doesn’t matter. He isn’t necessarily in denial of her love for him, but his need for companionship overrides his senses, which is very telling in this quote: “As he lay with his face close to hers, Iant felt that this might be the best he could expect. In a week, two weeks, he might no longer exist, and this might be all he had to warm him if he died.” Blandford really drives home that feeling of need, and there’s something wholly juvenile and precious about this.
But eventually, he does get over her. He falls for the nurse who fed him as he recovered from a gas attack. While Iant doesn’t admit he enjoyed being fed, he is eager for it. As if the spoon is more than the food it delivers; it symbolizes the maternal love that he so desperately craves.
There’s a lot to unpack in this book and that had me turning the pages. However, sometimes, I felt like I experienced the story from a bird’s eye view. I saw what was happening, I understood how the characters responded and felt, but there was a coldness to the telling. I wanted to be more inside Iant’s head, and not just told how he was feeling it.
It’s when the characters interact with each other that Blandford’s writing comes to life. As an American, it was fun to read the variety of their dialects, but it’s more than just the dialects. The interactions make me, as the reader, feel part of the story.
There’s something wholly genuine about how the characters speak to one another, as if Blandford found his inspiration from real life. Here’s one of my favorite quotes, “Oh aye? You been on this bloody boat too long. Time to get off, have a few drinks, and see how friendly the locals are. You know what I mean, boys?”
Outside of dialogue, I did find some great lines that really encompassed the whole of the story and Blandford’s style of writing. Here’s my favorite quote: “Feet were bruised, and tunes were murdered, but everyone knew it was important to live just a little.”
Blandford creates characters and situations that come to life, and if you’re one who loves war stories, especially ones of love and lost innocence, then read this.
Iant is published by Cambria Publishing and can be purchased in books shops and here
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