Monday, 30 October 2017

The Hill - Ray Rigby

Title: The Hill
Author: Ray Rigby
Publisher: Endeavour Press
Year: 2015
Pages: 201

The story of The Hill unfolds in a British detention barracks somewhere in the desert mid-way through World War II. This is a story of the dynamics of interaction between the staff members, the prisoners and the environment within which they find themselves set against the artificial backdrop of the war itself. A simple narrative on the surface belies an incredibly complex storyline with deep nuance and shade. This is concurrently a story of human survival, leadership and the psychology of control and power.

It is not simply a story of the abuse of that power however, but also a study in the use of coercion, discipline and motivation to mold soldiers and men. Enforced with a steady and guided hand, the techniques used by the camp Sergeant-Major and his NCO’s are efficient and very effective. However, the line that is walked is a narrow one and it is very easy to slide into destructive behaviours. The book is a treatise on the critical importance of professionalism and unit discipline and the pitfalls of allowing complacency to take hold.

The novel is written such that the perspective of the prisoners as well as the staff are revealed. Within an environment of controllers and controlees, there is a unique dynamic that exists where each side has a defined role to play, within set guidelines, some written and some simply understood. Rigby has done an outstanding job at recreating that balance and iterating what happens when there is a flaw or weakness in the fabric of the relationship.

The story really is a study of the human condition within the controlled environment of a wartime military prison. The reader is able to study and examine the interaction of the participants from a third person perspective and one readily comes to the conclusion that each of the protagonists are prisoners in their own unique way. It is in this way that the brilliance of Rigby’s narrative shines through; the characters are a reflection of the good and bad in each of us.

This is a gripping story and an outstanding cerebral study. To be truly appreciated it must be read with an open mind and a critical eye. This book should be studied by students of leadership, the military arts and psychologists. It is a very thought -provoking and challenging work.  

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