Views & Reviews Review of the week

The scars that won't heal

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39175.535139.59 (Published 12 April 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:801
  1. Robert Hunter, consultant psychiatrist
  1. Gartnavel Royal Hospital, Glasgow
  1. R.hunter{at}clinmed.gla.ac.uk

    Robert Hunter is impressed by a novel that examines the long term effects of warfare on mental health and relationships

    Afterwards gives us an important glimpse of how veterans who are psychologically damaged by their war experiences struggle to cope after returning to civilian society. Seiffert, one of many new writers nurtured by the creative writing course at Glasgow University and whose first novel, The Dark Room (2001), was shortlisted for the Booker prize, has written Afterwards in an understated, almost skeletal style that paradoxically seems to make her work all the more powerful.

    At the centre of the story is the developing relationship between Alice, a physiotherapist, and Joseph, a former infantryman who now works as a plasterer and decorator. As the story unfolds it becomes clear that Joseph has been struggling to cope with psychological harm resulting from service with the army in Armagh. Alice, who was abandoned by her father as a baby and is still grieving for her beloved grandmother, enlists Joseph's help to redecorate her grandfather's house. During the redecoration, David, her grandfather, seems to welcome the opportunity to confide in Joseph about his war experiences in Kenya, where as an RAF officer he …

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