The War Zone: 20th Anniversary Edition

The War Zone: 20th Anniversary Edition

Alexander Stuart

Fiction / Novels

Compared by Time Out magazine to a contemporary Catcher in the Rye, Alexander Stuart's The War Zone was chosen as Best Novel of the Year for Britain's prestigious Whitbread Prize when it was first published, but was instantly stripped of the award amid controversy among the judges, due to the novel's stark and uncompromising portrayal of incest and adolescent fury, when its teenage narrator, Tom, stumbles upon a complex and intensely abusive relationship between his older sister, Jessie, and their father. The novel has been published in eight languages and was turned into a searingly emotional film directed by Oscar-nominated actor/director, Tim Roth, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to win international critical acclaim and many awards. This newly revised 20th Anniversary Edition includes an Afterword by Tim Roth, explaining what drew him to this controversial and painful subject matter for his directorial debut, together with both the original British and American opening chapters of the book, and Alexander Stuart's diary of the making of the film.From Publishers WeeklyA photo of children in bomb-torn Beirut hangs in the bedroom of Tom, the adolescent narrator of this taut, gripping novel by a young British writer. The war zone of the title, however, is the seemingly tranquil village in Devon where Tom and his family have moved from London. Bored and restless, Tom at first seems a contemporary Holden Caulfield, possessed of an urge to do mischief to establish his identity. But as he relates the circumstances that transform his lifehis discovery of the incestuous relationship between his father and his older sister Jessiethe novel reveals its sinister, shocking theme. Because he and Jessie have always been close, the situation feels like a double betrayal to Tom, who also realizes that to reveal the bizarre secret to his mother, preoccupied with a new baby, will destroy them all. In electrically tense prose, Stuart succeeds in enveloping the reader in the surcharged atmosphere of sexual perversion. Although Tom's painful emotional limbo is effectively conveyed, however, Stuart's portrayal of Jessie is less successful. The young woman's cool, nervy manipulation of her father and Tom, her determination to engage in every form of sexual experience, is meant to mirror the "corrupt, repressive" society of Thatcher's England, but Jessie loses her credibility as she leads Tom into a maelstrom of depravity and violence. The denouement, containing the rationale for Jessie's behavior, is unconvincing, but until that point the reader is caught up in a riveting tale. Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. From Library JournalThis exciting but distasteful novel is narrated by rebellious, adolescent Tom, scion of a middle-class English family who discovers that his elder sister Jessica is having sexual relations with their father. Simmering with frightening psychological tensions and perverse violence, the novel effectively captures the raw emotions of adolescence in uninhibited language. It finally fails primarily because one cannot believe in the witchlike cunning and amorality of Jessica, on which the plot hinges. And the conclusion, in which Tom ends up having sex with his sister (just like Dad) is too perverse to be satisfying. The fascination the book undoubtedly exerts is due mostly to morbid curiosity about how far the author's odd imagination will take him, and one is left wishing he had put his undoubted talents to more worthwhile use.- Bryan Aubrey, Fairfield, Ia.Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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