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Love and Life During the Time of War in Barry Rickson's The Reluctant Warrior

In the time of war, many men are forced to go to a land unknown. To fight for their country once they are called upon. However, the reality for them is much more painful simply because they would not only leave the comfort of their homes but suffer the possibility of losing the people they love due to unexpected circumstances they might encounter.

Released in 2013, The Reluctant Warrior by Barry Rickson. The story begins in pre-war Germany covers the year 1939-1945, the Second World War and follows the story of Frank Eberhardt, a young and handsome man taking a year off from his studies to work at a German chemical plant in Bremen. There he meets and falls in love with Helga, a beautiful 18-year-old law student. He finds himself in the middle of chaos as the war broke out in 1941, causing him to return home reluctantly joining the American Air Force in the winter and eventually becoming a navigator on the Flying Fortress or B-17. He was then sent to Norfolk on the east coast of England where he took part in historic raids that caused destruction and suffering to the civilians affected. When he had managed to rise up to the ranks by becoming a major at the USAAF Headquarters, he comes back to Bremen hoping to see his one true love as the war has come to an end.

Rickson, who is now in his eighties, has done a tremendous amount of research on World War II and this is shown in his book The Reluctant Warrior where he, not only masterfully narrates the experiences of Frank Eberhardt but also shares historical information on topics such as rationing in Germany, the jobs and responsibilities of USAAF bombers and of course, the dangers and casualties during air missions and lastly, the painful reality of battle fatigue. More than the love story, Rickson offers history buffs gems of information embedded in his book that not only is pertinent to the story but also proves to be entertaining and educational. The breathtaking pace of the story will take readers back into the time of war where uncertainty is common and the only hope and motivation that one has is the love that they desire. Apart from that, Rickson also has his own experiences as an army man that lived in Germany that helped him to write the book.

The book has very little dialogue but Rickson’s descriptive narrative paints a graphic picture of a war-torn Germany and lets his characters’ actions dictate the pace of the story. With lesser dialogue, he allows his characters to speak for themselves by detailing their gestures and emotions that provide a deeper insight into the personality of Helga and Frank that makes their relationship more fascinating.

The Reluctant Warrior is a beautiful story of one man’s journey into finding his way back to his one true love and the challenges he’s faced during the war. Readers will see the perspective of soldiers that struggle between duty and conscience and how they too, are people who want peace and safety for themselves. This fascinating historical fiction will truly hook you into the life and hardships of a loyal and loving soldier.

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