No Man's Land by Simon Tolkien
A Novel

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In the book's last third, coincidence and cliché play an unfortunately large role. But such quibbles miss the point. This is a page-turner, an opera, a costume drama to binge watch. Simon Tolkien knows how to keep a story moving, and he does it well.
-NPR

Synopsis

Inspired by the real-life experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I, Simon Tolkien delivers a perfectly rendered novel rife with class tension, period detail, and stirring action, ranging from the sharply divided society of northern England to the trenches of the Somme.

Adam Raine is a boy cursed by misfortune. His impoverished childhood in turn-of-the-century London comes to a sudden and tragic end when his mother is killed in a workers' protest march. His father, Daniel, is barely able to cope with the loss. But a job offer in the coal mining town of Scarsdale presents one last chance, so father and son head north. The relocation is hard on Adam: the local boys prove difficult to befriend, and he never quite fits in. Meanwhile tensions between the miners and their employer, Sir John Scarsdale, escalate, and finally explode with terrible consequences.
     In the aftermath, Adam's fate shifts once again, and he finds himself drawn into the opulent Scarsdale family home where he makes an enemy of Sir John's son, Brice, who subjects Adam to a succession of petty cruelties for daring to step above his station. However, Adam finds consolation in the company of Miriam, the local parson's beautiful daughter with whom he falls in love. When they become engaged and Adam wins a scholarship to Oxford, he starts to feel that his life is finally coming together—until the outbreak of war threatens to tear everything apart.
     From the slums of London to the riches of an Edwardian country house; from the hot, dark seams of a Yorkshire coal mine to the exposed terrors of the trenches in France; Adam's journey from boy to man is set against the backdrop of a society violently entering the modern world.
 

About Simon Tolkien

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Simon Tolkien was a successful barrister in London, specializing in criminal justice, before moving to California with his wife and two children.  His first novel, Final Witness, was published in 2002 to widespread acclaim and his second, The Inheritance, received equally positive reviews when it came out in 2009. He is the grandson of J.R.R.Tolkien. Visit him online at www.SimonTolkien.com.
 
Published January 24, 2017 by Nan A. Talese. 592 pages
Genres: History, War, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for No Man's Land
All: 2 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Above average
on Oct 19 2016

Told chronologically through a narrative that marches rather than soars, the story’s second half relates England’s initial jingoistic war fervor, every able-bodied man pressured to join the cause, but then confronts the ugliness a generation decimated by machine guns...faced returning home to a jaundiced society.

Read Full Review of No Man's Land: A Novel | See more reviews from Kirkus

NPR

Above average
Reviewed by Brian Castner on Jan 24 2017

In the book's last third, coincidence and cliché play an unfortunately large role. But such quibbles miss the point. This is a page-turner, an opera, a costume drama to binge watch. Simon Tolkien knows how to keep a story moving, and he does it well.

Read Full Review of No Man's Land: A Novel | See more reviews from NPR

Reader Rating for No Man's Land
85%

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