Sparta by Roxana Robinson
A Novel

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His character has a manufactured quality to it, as though Robinson assembled him from a box of parts labeled “symptoms of Iraq war vets.” She took a similar approach to his family and friends...
-Star Tribune

Synopsis

Going from peace to war can make a young man into a warrior. Going from war to peace can destroy him.



Conrad Farrell has no family military heritage, but as a classics major at Williams College, he has encountered the powerful appeal of the Marine Corps ethic. "Semper Fidelis" comes straight from the ancient world, from Sparta, where every citizen doubled as a full-time soldier. When Conrad graduates, he joins the Marines to continue a long tradition of honor, courage, and commitment.

As Roxana Robinson's new novel, Sparta, begins, Conrad has just returned home to Katonah, New York, after four years in Iraq, and he's beginning to learn that something has changed in his landscape. Something has gone wrong, though things should be fine: he hasn't been shot or wounded; he's never had psychological troubles--he shouldn't have PTSD. But as he attempts to reconnect with his family and his girlfriend and to find his footing in the civilian world, he learns how hard it is to return to the people and places he used to love. His life becomes increasingly difficult to negotiate: he can't imagine his future, can't recover his past, and can't bring himself to occupy his present. As weeks turn into months, Conrad feels himself trapped in a life that's constrictive and incomprehensible, and he fears that his growing rage will have irreparable consequences.
Suspenseful, compassionate, and perceptive, Sparta captures the nuances of the unique estrangement that modern soldiers face as they attempt to rejoin the society they've fought for. Billy Collins writes that Roxana Robinson is "a master at . . . the work of excavating the truths about ourselves"; The Washington Post's Jonathan Yardley calls her "one of our best writers." In Sparta, with the powerful insight and acuity that marked her earlier books (Cost, Sweetwater, and A Perfect Stranger, among others), Robinson explores the life of a veteran and delivers her best book yet.
A Washington Post Notable Fiction Book of 2013

 

About Roxana Robinson

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Roxana Robinson is the author of four novels, including Cost (Sarah Crichton Books, 2008); three collections of short stories; and the biography Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, More, and Vogue, among other publications. She lives in New York City.
 
Published June 4, 2013 by Sarah Crichton Books. 401 pages
Genres: War, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Sparta
All: 4 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Ron Carlson on Jul 26 2013

In this nuanced novel, we watch this fine, troubled young man as he chooses his own mission for the home front.

Read Full Review of Sparta: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

Blog Critics

Above average
Reviewed by Jack Goodstein on Jun 08 2014

Surprisingly, perhaps, the book is very difficult to put down; Robinson gets readers so involved in Farrell’s interior life...

Read Full Review of Sparta: A Novel | See more reviews from Blog Critics

WSJ online

Good
on May 31 2013

...a powerful reminder both of the illness's concrete existence and of the risk it poses to veterans of America's 21st-century wars.

Read Full Review of Sparta: A Novel | See more reviews from WSJ online

Star Tribune

Below average
Reviewed by Bob Hoover on Jun 09 2013

His character has a manufactured quality to it, as though Robinson assembled him from a box of parts labeled “symptoms of Iraq war vets.” She took a similar approach to his family and friends...

Read Full Review of Sparta: A Novel | See more reviews from Star Tribune

Reader Rating for Sparta
83%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 87 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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