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The Hidden Bend Paperback – March 11, 2016
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The reader awakens to the turmoil of the main characters at the same time as “the soldier” rouses to another sultry day on an unnamed battlefield. The soldier wakes to his day, but also attempts to awaken himself as to who he is. The reader is taken on his campaign for discovery alongside the soldier as he tries on different identities such as “the farmer, the son, the brother…” In a similar way, the reader makes the acquaintance of Nastasiya and Piers, who are yet only acquaintances to themselves at the beginning of Cranswick’s book. Nastasiya embarks on a journey that mirrors her own journey of self discovery and Piers behaves in ways that are unfamiliar to him, deepening his idea of who he truly is.
The scenes in the novel rotate from chapter to chapter and between the three main characters. Setting is integral to the development of the characters. Guy’s spare writing style mirrors the emptiness of the character’s being, which the sparse surroundings reflect again. The army camp, the stone, metal and glass of the city, and Piers’ sanitized exurban landscape emphasize each character’s basic loneliness and solo venture through life.
While war is externalized for the soldier, Piers and the Nastasiya experience and seek resolution to inner conflict while at the same time as realizing that the conflict is the one thing that makes them feel truly alive.
The Hidden Bend evades summary. Cranswick’s novel focuses more on the inner thoughts of characters than on plot. The themes of The Hidden Bend are many and various due to the depth of discourse Cranswick furnishes us. Throughout the novel, the characters try to discover their real essence and acquire depth. The army depersonalized the nameless soldier. Piers and Nastasiya are rejecting, or are in the process of rejecting, their given identity; which constitutes their existential conflict. “The characters in The Hidden Bend either lose or have the things that identify them taken from them. Without the people or the things that they have always had and known, they are changed. At the end, they reconcile to the new world, and may adapt. But in doing so they acquire something else, maybe something (Primo)Levi understood.” Says Cranswick in his reader's guide for the book.
The Hidden Bend is a satisfying read that gives pause for thought. How the three main characters are connected Cranswick does not explain, but leaves the reader with something to think on and to use to draw deeper meaning.