A subtle novel of the war in Iraq

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Spoils. By Brian Van Reet. Lee Boudreaux Books; 304 pages; $26. Jonathan Cape; £12.99.

AFTER September 11th 2001 Brian Van Reet dropped out of university, joined the American army, fought in Iraq and was awarded a medal for valour. It is impossible not to wonder to what extent his experiences shaped his electrifying debut novel, “Spoils”.

Set in 2003, during the early days of the invasion of Iraq, the novel centres on three protagonists: Sleed, an American tanker, Cassandra Wigheard, a 19-year-old on her first deployment, and Abu Al-Hool, a veteran Egyptian jihadist whose brotherhood of fighters has travelled from Afghanistan to Iraq to wage war on America. Pivoting around an attack during which Cassandra and two fellow soldiers are taken prisoner by the jihadists, the novel jumps back and forth in time and shifts between the three characters’ perspectives, gradually revealing how each of them has come to play a key role in a conflict they do…Continue reading

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