Monday, 10 August 2015

Devastation Road - Jason Hewitt - hauntingly bleak

The Blurb......

A deeply compelling and poignant story that, like the novels of Pat Barker or Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong, dramatises the tragic lessons of war, the significance of belonging and of memory - without which we become lost, even to ourselves.

Spring, 1945: A man wakes in a field in a country he does not know. Injured and confused, he pulls himself to his feet and starts to walk, and so sets out on an extraordinary journey in search of his home, his past and himself.

His name is Owen. A war he has only a vague memory of joining is in its dying days, and as he tries to get back to England he becomes caught up in the flood of refugees pouring through Europe. Among them is a teenage boy, Janek, and together they form an unlikely alliance as they cross battle-worn Germany. When they meet a troubled young woman, tempers flare and scars are revealed as Owen gathers up the shattered pieces of his life. No one is as he remembers, not even himself - how can he truly return home when he hardly recalls what home is?

My Thoughts

What a haunting and thought provoking read this is. Like the cover, the whole book is atmospheric and seems written in monochrome, overlaid with a layer of gery dust which obscures memories this makes for a beautiful ethereal quality.

The main protagonist, Owen finds himself in a field near a river. Confused and injured he struggles to his feet and begins walking, to where, he doesn't know, any more than where he has come from or how he got there. His memories are clouded and distant he's not even sure of his own name. It's clear war has ravaged this country but he doesn't even know what country he is in. Did he take part in the war, was he wounded in battle?

His journey brings him in contact with more devastation, fleeing refugees, one of whom, a boy named Janek, joins him despite neither speaking the same language they rub along together, company for each other in this drab and dangerous grey landscape. As he walks memories begin to surface like pieces of shrapnel beneath the skin, but as soon as he tries to grasp them they are gone and he starts to make notes to aid his memory. It's clear he is suffering from some form of amnesia but what horrors is his mind blocking that can be worse then the sights he sees on the road? When a young girl with a baby cross paths with them the dynamics of this pairs journey change.

The writing is poetic, the descriptions bleak, with an impending sense of apocalyptic doom. It's so easy to get swept up in the dreariness of the scene unfolding, yet the characters are compelling and engaging and you just long to know Owens past, what will happen to Janek and Irini and the little man with no name.

When the secrets from the past begin to unfold they're not quite what I expected nor wanted for the hapless group of travellers, some of the scenes are mind numbing and past events unpredictable.

This is a world war 2 novel that reads like a scene from a horrifying future, it's timeless but contains memories you want to leave firmly in the past, yet there are glimmers of hope and redemption and right at the end one large tear rolled down my cheek and I let out a sigh of satisfaction which only follows a damn good read.

My thanks to the author Jason Hewitt for kindly providing me with a copy of his super new book via #BookConnectors in exchange for sharing my review. It's been a pleasure and I really enjoyed reading it.


  1. Great review, thank you, Jan. it makes one think about the plight of refugees both then and now....


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