Cara Hoffman - Be Safe I Love You (4 stars)

A brave, intelligent and unflinching war novel told from the perspective of a female soldier

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Cara Hoffman - Be Safe I Love You

Lauren Clay returns from Iraq apparently unharmed. But while she tries to reconnect with the friends and family she left, they begin to see that something is very wrong with Lauren. Her post-combat life is balanced with memories of her childhood, which are just as fraught and heavy with loss as her war experiences.

Throughout, Hoffman's prose is near perfect: intense and imaginative, each sentence heavy with meaning without feeling overwritten. She balances the tightrope of not flinching away from violence, but also not lovingly describing it. War is never glamourised: when Lauren's friend asks her whether she saved anyone's life in Iraq, Lauren replies, 'I saved millions from the inconvenience of taking public transportation… And I saved a bunch of fucking money in my own bank account.'

As in her first novel, So Much Pretty, Hoffman explores themes of government-condoned violence and vulnerability, a woman's place in a male-dominated environment, and the collusion of a small town's wilful ignorance in creating monsters.

Don't expect a traditional suspense plot, and you'll find Be Safe I Love You to be brave, intelligent and unflinching.

Published by Virago on Thu 24 Apr.

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