As a child of the 80s, raised in peaceful Hampshire suburbia, I was perhaps an unlikely war obsessive. Regardless, I was magnetically drawn to the derring-do of Biggles (after whom I named the family cat), my nostrils often stang with the acrid stink of polystyrene cement used to glue together Airfix models and my bedroom floor frequently played host to miniature re-enactments of the great battles of history. As an adult, I remain both interested in armed conflict and bemused by why militaria holds any continued captivation when my values are dead set in the opposite direction.
I was thus thrilled to discover that Men At War writer Luke Turner was, likewise, a war-dork. Known for his work as co-founder of music platform The Quietus and his 2020 memoir Out Of The Woods, Turner’s interest in tanks‘n’guns seemed similarly unlikely to my own, a dichotomy that he discusses with precision in Men At War, his second book.
Taking a novel approach to considering the legacy of World War II, Turner examines not only his own interest in the subject but its grip on wider British society to this day. Via a focus on the experiences of a rainbow cast of fascinating figures whose heroic exploits have been in many cases under-reported – and, in particular, on sex and sexuality in wartime – Turner provides an original, distinctive and extremely human insight into the war.
Men At War: Loving, Lusting, Fighting, Remembering 1939-1945, Luke Turner (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Price: £18.99/£24.99 audiobook. Info: here
words HUGH RUSSELL
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