I have long admired the work of Owen Sheers. He is a poet, playwright and novelist who is also a presence on BBC radio from time to time. This book is a verse- drama about three friends from Bristol who join the army and serve in Afghanistan. Friends since school, Arthur is the central narrator and it is he who persuades his friends to join him in a great adventure. Hads and Taff follow their friend and the resulting play shows the effects of war on all three and on the three women whose lives are also affected when the war crashes into their lives through the toll it takes on their son, boyfriend or husband.
Owen Sheers interviewed many ex-soldiers for this work. Some came home physically intact but mentally and emotionally scarred while others came home with body parts missing. Then again, not everyone came home. The strength of this work is that it takes time to realise which of the three friends paid the highest price of all.
This is not anti-army, though. The friends pay tribute to the army and the sense of purpose it gave them. They all have their own reasons for enlisting. Owen Sheers does not assess the rights or wrongs of fighting in Afghanistan. Instead, he just shows us the human cost of war. It is a devastatingly powerful work.
‘Pink Mist’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?