When I was offered a proof of The Guardian, I accepted, thinking ‘why not’. Admittedly it is a little different from the things that I would normally read. It is a thriller, a genre I love, but it is a political, international thriller concerned with the ‘issues’ between America and Afghanistan, and more specifically, Islam itself. These are issues that we are all aware of and that we all know at least a little about; but I had never read about them in the form of a novel, and I was intrigued.
After I had read maybe a third of the book, I paused to make some preliminary notes about my reaction to the text. It reminded me of the TV series ‘Homeland‘, firstly. The personal conflicts and the conspiracy theories – or at least fear of conspiracy or corruption within one’s own government. Secondly, it had a solid ‘modern thriller’ style. A few noir influences, lots of sharp dialogue, short sentences. Suspense couple with sarcasm and world-weariness. I imagine it would make a suitably gripping series or movie.
There are some really excellent moments of suspense and tension, and Hosp manages to convey the intensity of a situation with a few simple sentences and carefully chosen dialogue. This is especially effective in scenes like the one in which a character has a body part forcibly severed. It’s distressing and intense, but Hosp keeps a steady gaze on the scene and does not waver – he dips in and out of the character’s point of view and keeps the reader fully engrossed and engaged. THAT is good writing.
As I say, one could very easily see The Guardian as a series or movie. Not only is it topical and dramatic, but Hosp’s writing makes everything immediate and visceral, with graphic images and deceptively simple set-ups. Whilst being very well written, this is not a literary novel – it is a genre novel. This makes it more suitable for adaptation. There is plenty of action as well as genuine character development and depth. It is a thriller, you don’t know who you can trust. The past will come back to get you. Nothing is as simple as it seems.
‘Is this the place?’ Saunders asked. He was standing behind her, and she was blocking the door as she hesitated at the threshold.
‘Yeah,’ she said.
‘There a problem?’
‘There are lots of problems.’ She took a step and entered the pub, walking slowly but steadily towards the bar. She realized at that moment she had never been this scared.
I really appreciated the fact that there is a strong female character in this novel. Special Agent Jack Saunders is the main character, but he recruits ‘disgraced former war hero’ Cianna Phelan to help him. She is tough and capable, but also vulnerable. Sure there are cliches in her character, but her power and strength of character, as well as the role she plays in the story, make her an ultimately positive portrayal of a military woman.
Ultimately I really enjoyed this book. It was not the sort of thing I would have necessarily picked up on my own, so I’m glad I was sent it. The story was intriguing and gripping, with great, simplistic writing, and intense visual scenes. It is always a good thing to venture out of one’s literary comfort zone every now and then, whatever the result. Many thanks to Camilla Elworthy for suggesting this as a break from my comfort zone!
The Guardian was published in paperback in the UK on 2nd August 2012 by Pan Macmillan. My copy was kindly provided by the publisher for review.