Michael Grant’s new masterpiece is set in an alternative history where WWII women are eligible for combat roles on the front line. But the question on many reader’s lips, including mine, is “who’s that narrator?”
The prologue and epilogue are spoken by a ‘nameless narrator’. I’m pretty sure it’s a female, and at the very least fought alongside Rio, Frangie and Rainy. Many speculated that it was, in fact, Jenou. Now, I’m not about to drop any spoilers, but instead leave you to make up your own minds. One thing’s for sure, it’s mystifying! And driving me to distraction trying to figure it out.
But what if we’re not meant to yet?
Who knows what a literary freakin’ genius like Michael Grant has hidden up his sleeve, and perhaps he’ll drop the bomb on us sooner or later. If you’ll excuse the poor choice of words.
However, there is something unifying and poetic about not knowing, too. Much like the tomb of the unknown solider, the nameless narrator can become everyone’s story.
A vessel and a symbol for all and every wartime narrative, brought together in one place. And this is what our narrator does for us, “gentle reader.” Not only that, it allows for a certain amount of fact fudging, if necessary, since how reliable can one eye witness testimony be? But she also gives us ‘all seeing’ storytelling, looking over the shoulder of Rio, and then Frangie, and Rainy. We can hop around the battlefield and see it from different angles, experience it in all its horror and witness how it changes individuals in different ways.
Our narrator is not without her own struggles and demons, but shows us how focusing on others can distract yourself from your own pain and anxiety.
A clever way to ‘frame’ the book. We’re seeing the story through a window built by this narrator, and yet she somehow lets it become completely our own, too, if we want it. A careful and ‘gentle’ way to take a step back and yet thrust the reader right into the action all at once.
I’ll say it again, without shame, Grant is a freakin’ literary genius.