'A modern work of genius' Spectator
Winner of the Costa/Whitbread Book of the Year Award 1993
Forced into slavery as a child, Jonathan Carrick escapes to a new life but within him lies the need for revenge against George Stokes, the son of his former master.
Mallory Carrick, confined to a wheelchair, seeks to find out the truth about her grandfather's history.
Haunting, elegant and passionate, Theory of War is...
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Theory of War

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'A modern work of genius' Spectator
Winner of the Costa/Whitbread Book of the Year Award 1993
Forced into slavery as a child, Jonathan Carrick escapes to a new life but within him lies the need for revenge against George Stokes, the son of his former master.
Mallory Carrick, confined to a wheelchair, seeks to find out the truth about her grandfather's history.
Haunting, elegant and passionate, Theory of War is a novel about how the past lives on through following generations. It follows one woman's journey to discover what her grandfather might have experienced and how his suffering still haunts his descendants.

This highly-praised and award-winning novel provides a vivid account of the author's grandfather--a white man sold into slavery after the Civil War--and stands as both a gripping adventure and a scathing indictment of a historical inhumanity and its impact.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mallory Carrick, the narrator of this provocative, ambitious novel by the author of The Imposter , is the granddaughter of a white slave. Jonathan Carrick was ``bound out'' to a farmer as a boy in 1865; though he ran away at age 16, his enslavement instilled a fury that, Mallory states, ``pollutes my life, even though the man was dead before I was born.'' Desperate to understand her fierce, emotionally crippled ancestor, she flies from her home in England to Washington state, where her great-uncle recounts the story of Jonathan's life: his horrific boyhood, his years as a railroad brakeman, his conflict as a fundamentalist minister who doubted the Word he preached, his war against the imperious son of his erstwhile owner. Confined to a wheelchair by a spinal tumor, Mallory seeks ``the truth'' about her grandfather but must rely on such fallible sources as her alcoholic great-uncle's failing memory and Jonathan's coded journals. Drawing on the actual experiences of her own grandfather, Brady brings a riveting tale shockingly to life with her flair for colorful characterization and vivid language. However, her tendency to indulge in philosophical musings overwhelms a story that would have been far more powerful and unsettling if it had been more simply told. BOMC alternate. Apr.
Library Journal
In 1865, a Civil War veteran indentures his four-year-old son to a vicious Kansas tobacco farmer. The boy, who is white and Brady's grandfather, is fictionalized in a remarkably compelling tale that essentially draws its power from depicting unembellished brutality. Brady's narrative cuts between protagonist Jonathan Carrick's doomed attempts at love and normalcy and those of a son and granddaughter, reminiscing survivors who can only be termed ``adult children of slaves.'' In the 60 years the protagonist's story spans, Johnny, intense and generally enraged, circuits the country, murdering, praying, drinking, and blaspheming, often simultaneously. The characters in this dark tale, cynics every one, alternately ponder the biggest of questions and submit, inarticulately, to unbearable pain. This graphic, ugly-beautiful novel, as eloquent for its articulation of obsessive rage as for its avoidance of melodrama and cliche, is recommended for libraries collecting serious contemporary fiction. BOMC alternate; previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/92.-- Scott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr Coll. Lib., Pa.
Kerri Kilbane
The narrator of this true-to-life novel is the granddaughter of a slave. She is not, as we might expect, a black American. She is white, and her grandfather was white. But there are universal truths revealed about humanity wherever slavery exists, black or white, and that is the message here. This is the story of Jonathan Carrick, sold at the age of four to a Kansas farmer for the sum of $15. Johnny is beaten, worked like a pack mule, and treated no better than the pigs. From this he learns to hate, but it is against George Stokes, his master's son, a boy about Johnny's age, that he must go to war. Desperate to win his father's approval, George is consumed with jealousy over this "boughten boy"--his stoicism and his ever-apparent value to George's father. George torments and humiliates Johnny from his position of power, but, as in most wars, the balance of power can shift. As a free man, and at the end of his life, Johnny gets his revenge, but not before his hatred has destroyed his soul. Brady is herself the granddaughter of a slave, and this story is her attempt to understand what her grandfather suffered and the legacy of anger his descendants cope with today. An unforgettable look at the inhumanity of oppression, and at the awesome fortitude of the will to survive.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781849839532
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
  • Publication date: 1/26/2012
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 368
  • File size: 393 KB

Meet the Author

Joan Brady was the first ever winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year with the remarkable Theory of War in the 1990s, which won her huge acclaim. She was born in California, and now lives in Oxford. Venom is her sixth book, following on from Bleedout which was a major success for Simon&Schuster internationally in 2005.
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