All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Man Booker Shortlist #5 – Thoughts On: The Long Take by Robin Robertson

on December 14, 2018

The Long Take
Robin Robertson
2018, 237p
Read from my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Walker, a young Canadian recently demobilised after war and his active service in the Normandy landings and subsequent European operations. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and unable to face a return to his family home in rural Nova Scotia, he goes in search of freedom, change, anonymity and repair. We follow Walker through a sequence of poems as he moves through post-war American cities of New York, Los Angles and San Francisco.

What is with these Man Booker books and such brief synopsis’?

This is a really hard one to review because it’s written in verse and they’re not really my preferred type of story. I’ve only read a handful and if it weren’t for reading the shortlist, I probably wouldn’t have ever looked at this type of story, both because I’m not into verse and I am not particularly drawn to stories about veterans.

Walker by nature…..he’s Canadian, but finds himself in America after returning from some arduous conflicts serving in WWII. He settles first in New York but then makes his way to California, collecting his veteran’s pension and finding a job as a journalist. He wants to focus on features about veterans, the careless way they are treated once back in the country and the problems and difficulties they face returning to society. So many end up homeless, with drinking or drug addictions and nervous conditions that would be umbrella’d today under PTSD. Walker himself struggles with things like fireworks  which remind him of shelling and he drinks pretty much every day. Still, he manages to hold down his job, travelling up to San Francisco to document more veterans.

The further we get into the book, the more flashbacks we get of Walker’s time serving in the war and the become more detailed each time. It’s like as time gets more removed from the time he spent in the war, the more the memories creep in and permeate everything. We learn the stories of others that he comes across as well and eventually, most of Walker’s traumatic past is revealed, including what he shunned after the war and why he’s in America.

I thought this was a really interesting way to showcase some of the changing and often contradictory attitudes towards veterans. On one hand, a country like America, where Walker is, is passionate these days about thanking people for their service, for making sure it’s signposted really loud that everyone is appreciative of veterans and their sacrifice and everything they do so that the country remains free, etc. But even today, with better understanding of the effects of serving in conflict, post-deployment services for veterans remain woefully underfunded and it can be very difficult for career servicemen and women in particular, to readjust to ‘civilian’ life. Attitudes towards veterans have been swings and roundabouts – the ones post the Vietnam war are an interesting contrast to the way things are now and it seems that in the late 40s and 50s of this book there were whole communities of veterans living in squats, hovels, and on the streets.

For me, the last third or so of this, was probably the best part as it really picked up regarding flashback’s and also Walker’s deteriorating mental state. It made me want more, to learn in a more depth way about him and what he’d experienced. I’m honestly not qualified to really comment on the writing on this – I’m not big on poetry, almost never read it, wouldn’t recognise good structure from bad and although I did -like- it, I didn’t love it. And maybe some of that was the verse. Because it just felt vague at times and like I wasn’t getting the whole picture and I wanted to know more. The format definitely limited the way that information was conveyed and how much of it, which is probably half the point.

This was easy to read and thought provoking but I felt unsatisfied when I finished it.


Book #190 of 2018

2 responses to “Man Booker Shortlist #5 – Thoughts On: The Long Take by Robin Robertson

  1. celinelingg says:

    Love reading your review!

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