Devastation Road IS one of THOSE books
This IS one of THOSE reviews
I received my copy of Devastation Road from Schribner and swiftly pushed it up my TBR pile. I have really been looking forward to it for many reasons but mainly after reading the following:
‘Perfect for fans of Rose Tremain and Sebastian Faulk’s Birdsong’
Birdsong is possibly one of my all time greats, so Devastation Road had a lot to live up to in my eyes!! Also, I have recently read, LOVED and reviewed The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain.
No pressure then Jason!!
Read on to see my thoughts….
‘Spring, 1945: A man wakes in a field in a country he does not know. Injured and confused, he pulls himself to his feet and starts to walk, and so sets out on an extraordinary journey in search of his home, his past and himself.
His name is Owen. A war he has only a vague memory of joining is in its dying days, and as he tries to get back to England he becomes caught up in the flood of refugees pouring through Europe. Among them is a teenage boy, Janek, and together they form an unlikely alliance as they cross battle-worn Germany.
When they meet a troubled young woman, tempers flare and scars are revealed as Owen gathers up the shattered pieces of his life.
No one is as he remembers, not even himself – how can he truly return home when he hardly recalls what home is?’
‘He lay there trying to recall a house, a room, a bed, a warm arm wrapped around him, but in the thickness of the night – in his own private darkness – there was nothing there.’
Owen Thomas wakes up in a field. He is confused, wearing strange clothes and in pain. What follows is his journey as he tries to sort out where he comes from and where he is travelling to.
At the beginning it took me a few pages to gain perspective on the angle Jason Hewitt was taking with his approach. And wow does it work!! The repetition of Owen’s actions as his memory is faltering is reminiscent of Groundhog Day and is portrayed so tenderly in the writing. I put the book down, turned to my other half with the comment ‘You are going to like this one!’
Owen initially meets up with Janek Sokol, a young Czechoslovakian boy of approximately 15 years of age. Janek has very limited English but between them, a tentative relationship blossoms. Janek is searching for his older brother Petr, a resistance/revolutionary fighter that Janek idolizes.
Owen, with only fragments of memories returning, begins a journey though a war torn Europe with Janek by his side. They pass horrendous scenes of death and destruction. They see people with the contents of their lives dragging along behind them, bodies weary with exhaustion and with terror in their faces.
One of these faces belongs to Irena.
Irena recounts her horror story to Owen. Janek, very distrustful of her, is not favourable to Irena joining them on their journey, but with gentle persuasion from Owen, she does. The three continue their journey, with eyes open and alert to the devastation around them.
As time passes, snippets of another life back home come back to Owen. He has flashbacks of being in some way involved in the war effort, of his brother Max and of a woman.
His memories of how he came to be in the field are vague and confused.
‘Two gunshots and then a third, and he woke. Before that just the sense of him being dragged through his sleep, hands at the back of his collar, somene hauling him through the dark.’
Eventually, the three somehow manage to reach a camp, that is loosely based on Belsen.
‘Janek stood, his hand to his nose and his eyes screwed up to the stench of sewage and the warm dust that filled the air’
The scenes that meet them are apocalyptic. Owen is shattered by what he sees. How did all this happen? Why can he not remember?
Soon Owen helps out in the medical facility and through Jason Hewitt’s writing it’s as though you are in the hospital ward with him. The faces, the stench, the horror….all there.
‘As he moved from bed to bed, he tried not to look at the faces cowered beneath the sheets, many of them asleep or barely conscious, others staring at him from dim and sunken eyes. His hand reached out to give them the liquid, while inside he could feel himself pulling away. What had become of this world, he thought? Was it any wonder that lone soldiers walked out into fields and put bullets through their own heads?’
While in the camp, Owen, Janek and Irena, attempt to make sense of their lives and move on toward home.
As the novels progresses, we get an opportunity to see more of the past that each his carrying. We are brought back to the individual nightmares of Owen, Janek and Irena.
These memories, while only fictional in Devastation Road are, I’m sure, very similar to the memories that are passed on through generations today.
Devastation Road DID indeed live up to my expectations. A heartbreaking journey through a land devastated by man’s inhumanity to man. A compelling, frightening read about a time in our history that should never be forgotten or never repeated.
I highly recommend Jason Hewitt’s book and would seriously suggest you buy it.
It is a novel that will not be easily forgotten. It is a novel that will sit proudly on my bookshelves and I hope yours.
Purchase Link : Devastation Road
Who is Jason Hewitt?
After completing his degree he spent a number of years working in a bookshop in Oxford before moving into the publishing industry where he worked primarily as a Marketing Manager in a number of professional and academic publishers.
His debut novel The Dynamite Room published in the UK & Commonwealth in 2014, in the US/Canada and in a French translation (as Le Silence des Bombes) in 2015. His second novel Devastation Road was published by Scribner in the UK and Commonwealth in 2015 (paperback 2016) and will be published in the US/Canada in 2017.
He is also a playwright and actor. His first full-length play, Claustrophobia – produced by To the Moon, in association with Theatre Bench – premiered at Edinburgh Fringe and had a London run at The Hope Theatre in 2015.
As an actor he has performed major roles in a number of plays including Pericles, A Christmas Carol, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, The Merchant of Venice and King Lear (directed by Sir Jonathan Miller).
Jason was recently Writer-in-Residence at Abingdon School, has given guest lectures and workshops at a number of secondary schools and universities, and provides creative writing workshops at the British Library. He is a regular speaker at literary festivals, and is a member of the Society of Authors, and the Prime Writers, as well as being Treasurer for the Historical Writers’ Association. He is also currently Associate Lecturer for the BA Publishing Media degree at Oxford Brookes University.