Cape Argus declares House of War 'A love story for all ages'

A love story for all ages

January 11, 2010

By Beryl Eichenberger

With a foreign correspondent's eye and a storyteller's pen, Hamilton Wende has created a novel that juxtaposes the fierce passions that drive men to war against those that cause us to love.

It is a beautifully structured novel that is not afraid to show the harsh realities of war. Throw in a clever blend of intrigue and love, and you have an absorbing and sometimes shocking read.

Wende's skill is in showing us love can still be the most transcending and enduring passion of all.

Weaving together an intricate story that embraces historical fact with fiction, Wende takes us on a journey of ancient discovery paralleled by the intimate personal journeys of main protagonists Sebastian Burke and Claire Finch.

Sebastian Burke, former Rhodesian and esteemed academic, has spent his life trying to understand the secret life of Alexander the Great and his slave bride, Roxane.

At the heart of his research are the Royal Diaries, lost to the world after barbarians invaded Ay Khanoum thousands of years ago.

The city's ancient site is in the heart of Northern Afghanistan and, with the Taliban now forced underground, the opportunity to find the diaries of Alexander becomes a reality.

With the help of fiery and fiercely independent American documentary producer Claire Finch, the journey can now be undertaken.

Intrigued by the quest, she sets up her team of filmmakers and high-profile contacts, that will allow them to move through the devastated country with relative ease.
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However, nothing is as it seems. From the outset, with a murderous attack by al-Qaeda terrorists on American servicemen at their hotel in Tashkent, comes the growing realisation far more is at stake.

Wende pulls no punches. He draws heavily on his experience and brings the reader right into the middle of the distressing situations that so often dominate our daily headlines.

But there is a softer side to the novel as well, and that is what, for me, made it such a compelling read.

At the heart of the story are two people who have spent their lives focusing on projects to the exclusion of committed relationships.

We feel sympathy for the angst Burke carries, the flashbacks to his childhood in Rhodesia and a beloved brother.

We relate to the life Finch has chosen as a television journalist covering war zones, her need to show what she sees through her lens to the world.

Their journey is one of personal and historical discovery. While the outcome is fairly predictable, the landscape Wende paints is at once heartbreaking, terrifying and fascinating.

With lively and well-drawn characters, the stage is set for a meeting and clash of cultures, but also for the uncovering of buried secrets.