The Book of War

By James Whyle

General fiction, Historical fiction, Literary fiction | Paperback, eBook


An illiterate child is stranded on the southern tip of Africa. The British and the Xhosa have been at war for eighty years, and the boy signs up in the hope of steady meals. His new commander has assembled an assortment of convicts, sailors, and drunkards from the gutters of Cape Town. They will be used to test the effectiveness of a revolutionary new weapon. The irregulars embark on a journey through a landscape prowled by wild beasts, and the distinction between man and animal becomes blurred. Based on first-hand accounts of the Xhosa Wars, this acclaimed novel captures the fragility and bleakness of the time. "A stunning debut novel; well-written and disturbing" — Pretoria News. Shortlisted for the Sunday Times Literary Award for fiction.




James Whyle grew up in the Amatole Mountains of the Eastern Cape in South Africa. Conscripted into the apartheid army, he was discharged on the grounds of insanity. He did everything in his power to assist the authorities in arriving at this diagnosis. He has published poetry, short stories and journalism. Radio dramas, commissioned by the BBC, include A Man Called Rejoice which was published as Rejoice Burning in the UK in New South African Plays. His story, “The Story”, was chosen by JM Coetzee as winner of the 2011 Pen/Studzinski competition. The Book of War was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Literary Award for fiction and won the M-Net Literary Award for best debut.


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James Whyle grew up in the Amatole Mountains of the Eastern Cape in South Africa. Conscripted into the apartheid army, he was discharged on the grounds of insanity. He did everything in his power to assist the authorities in arriving at this diagnosis. He has published poetry, short stories and journalism. Radio dramas, commissioned by the BBC, include A Man Called Rejoice which was published ...


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