Looking at the striking front cover of The Awakening of Abraham Brown, it's easy to assume that the pages will deliver a patriotic war story. The destiny of three American servicemen - Abraham Brown, Patch Hancock and Indigo Templeton - in World War II France is indeed an important element of the story, but it is more than just historical fiction, with a supernatural and spiritual slant added to the story. This will undoubtedly give it wider appeal but may wrongfoot some of the readers expecting a more straightforward war story.
As the title suggests, the most important character is Abraham Brown, a black soldier who, through his narrative, reveals the extent of the racism he encounters in day to day life. In the opening scene, Abraham is stabbed by a Nazi soldier and the bayonet wound in his shoulder mystically becomes a personal warning system, tingling when Abraham is safe but aching when he is in danger. He also becomes imbued with healing capacities, for himself and others, both of which are useful gifts in wartime !
I found the characters to be slightly lacking in substance - although we do get a real sense of their childhoods and how this shaped them into the men they are today, I thought they could have been fleshed-out more, both in terms of physical description and personality. The villains seemed to have stepped out of a Boys' Own comic - I don't recall ever seeing a Nazi soldier in any war films or documentaries who had a pair of pistols, throwing knives and a tomahawk, not to mention a duo of dastardly death hounds - it all seemed a bit too much and had me rolling my eyes in disbelief ! Other aspects that seemed stilted were the (mercifully few and far between) clumsily written erotic scenes and the language which sometimes seemed out of kilter with the characters - although I don't have a problem with bad language in crime fiction for example, it just seemed out of place to have, for example, an upstanding 1940's woman using swearwords. I had to keep checking if the writer was British or American too, because there seemed to be a real hotchpotch of British English and Americanisms in the narration, which seemed strange.
Overall though, it's an enjoyable read that has a nice balance between showing the horrors of war and remaining optimistic about the innate goodness of man. I enjoyed the cameo appearances by famous people such as Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King which help to ground it in reality, despite its supernatural twist.
star rating : 4/5
RRP : £6.99
Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.