This quietly self-assured first novel contains some of the most graphic descriptions of brain surgery likely to be found outside a medical textbook. Set in a military psychiatric hospital in 1947, Sheila Llewellyn’s tale of the psychological costs of war is an often nightmarish yet deeply touching interleaving of the stories of resident psychiatrist Daniel Carter and his newest patient, Burma campaign veteran David Reece. David has what was once known as “war neurosis”: crippling anxiety, flashbacks and debilitating depression, or what we would now call post-traumatic stress disorder. In 1942, aged 18, he was sent into the Burmese jungle, one of the so-called “forgotten army” whose horrific experiences of guerrilla warfare in the far east remained overshadowed by the action in Europe. When he is unable to reintegrate himself into civilian life, David is admitted to Northfield Military Psychiatric Hospital near Birmingham. At Northfield – “not so much a hospital, more a receptacle for army rejects” – he befriends other casualties of war, among them a deserter from the north Africa and Normandy campaigns called John Bain, who is also being treated by Daniel. But Daniel, too, has his battles to fight: this is the postwar heyday of […]