Oftentimes, in this day and age, one may feel a sense of deja vu or fatigue when it comes to war-based novels. There is, after all, a piqued interest in the the lives and times of the great war eras in history (usually based around a mundane profession in war time, or the child or sibling of someone a la The Cheesemaker’s Cousin of Birkenau or similar). So going into this new novel, One Day in June by Sam Martin, with some trepidation seemed like a logical choice.
Only, it was misplaced. This novel is not the same puff-pastried flaky prose of some of those other releases. Rather, it gut punches the reader into alertness, taking the reader into the depth of anguish and despair that comes with war. And then it stays there for some time, really proliferating the internal posturings that one must face in such a crisis. Because while it is based on the true events in the past, they are only the backdrop, the real drama in this novel is not war, it is the human connections, and feelings, that may well be hidden and cause more conflict on an individual level than any war could hope to create.
The signs are all there from page one of this new novel from Sam Martin, this is - at times - going to be a tough read. The cracked typeface of the ‘O’ in the first word of the title ‘One Day in June’ (ominous in its own way), the blood red colouring, and the dedication where the author outlines the love and loss that he has suffered. Indeed, the first words of the first part - The Discovery - are ‘They say that the moment you know you’re going to die…’. One doesn’t need a doctorate in literary symbolism to realise that this is likely to be quite the emotional output from the UK writer (now based in Germany).
This is not the first book by Martin, he has also penned another novel, and a screenplay which is due for release in the next few months - the post lockdown appetite for reading and writing makes now an exciting time to be an author it seems.
The narrative is based on the protagonist Adrian Kramer. Set with the background of true historical events, Martin takes the reader through the plight of Adrian and the trials and tribulations that goes along with the European war environment. The writing is highly cinematic - and one can imagine there is hope for a film based on the same.
Martin is a screenwriter, and it is glaringly obvious when it comes to the dialogue in One Day in June. Letting go of the frilly go-nowhere dialogue that plagues modern writing, Martin is stringent with the language choice and taut in general, when it comes to the style of the dialogue. He has a gift of precision and craft with the conversations that are so pleasing to note.
Overall, this was a tremendous read. The thriller component has you wanting to read that one more page; one more chapter. It has a wonderful plot, one that will stick around in memory for quite some time. I thought it was a well-executed psychological ride with all the twists and turns of a writer who knows and understands their craft. But mostly, it is the suffering that Adrian faces through dealing with a father clinging to life. It is in this moment that the reader sees the realness of human toil and emotion. We are Adrian. We may not have the same background, the same environment, the same conditions that the protagonist has, but we are there – in the moment.
Reviewer: Chris Reed