As Helen Parr writes in her thought-provoking study of the paratroopers who fought in the Falklands: “This land was British land, reclaimed with British blood.”... Her measured and touching investigation into the young men who joined the Paras – their background, training, expectations, and the impact on them of this short, brutal campaign – makes for a riveting anatomy of Great Britain in the 1970s and 1980s.
The author is a historian by profession and her account is richly sourced and careful in its judgments: censoriousness is not her game... Parr is also a gifted writer, who for the most part writes tenderly. Many passages are profoundly moving. There can be few better books about fighting men in all their bravery, terror and sham
This is as much a wide-ranging work of social history as it is an account of a military campaign, and it is all the more vivid, visceral and readable for it. The history of the maroon berets and their wounded reputation (Arnhem, Bloody Sunday) feels like a preface to Parr’s more lucid exploration in the second half of the personal impact of the conflict.
...part family memoir, part regimental history, but it is also a perceptive examination of class and social change; and Parr’s skill lies in handling these various threads so deftly... This analysis is finely executed, with enviable acuity and lightness of touch. Parr’s family experience forms the core of the book, but she has read and interviewed widely, and her even-handedness with this material pays dividends
Parr, who teaches international relations at Keele University, uses her unusual vantage point to great success. She confronts many of the clichés indulged by so many male authors in books about soldiers... Her accounts of battle are all the more hard-hitting due to her sparse academic style, shorn of adjectives yet dense in detail.
This book is about the Paras but it is also more than that. Using her family and the regiment as a framework, Parr describes an elite ethos and heroism, sometimes beyond the point of reason, that sets them apart. But she doesn’t shy from their notorious reputation for fierce combat — from Arnhem to Bloody Sunday — or the troubles and tensions in the society they’re drawn from. Her stories reveal many truths about the British army that are essential to understanding our forces.
the best discussion of soldiers in combat, their motivation, behaviours and fears, and the after-effects of lethal conflict at a personal level that I have come across. She lays such experience bare and takes a subtle approach to memoirs written at the time, official and published accounts, and a series of interviews with veterans, their partners and families, and the bereaved. It works because the style relies on the judgments and observations of others, before she offers her own conclusion.