I have to confess that the novel had me hooked even before I started: as a child, my military family was stationed in the Mediterranean for some years, our first overseas posting. It was wonderful and a little traumatic -- some of our best and worst memories. The locational setting of Small Wars, the military family at the story's center, and the era (late '50s) immediately appealed to me and I was so excited to read this novel.My expectations were met and surpassed.I really had two reactions with this book: one, an intense sense of nostalgia when I started (as Jones so perfectly captured that sort of numb exhaustion that comes from arriving in a foreign country so alien it's impossible to process); and two, a gripping need to finish the story because I had to know what happened.There's a sparse, almost polite feel to the writing that feels both very British and very dated -- in a good way. It's like reading a novel from the '50s with that sort of painful restraint that is beautiful and maddening. There's just so much unspoken it makes one wiggle with discomfort and sadness; the burden of expectation and the understanding of one's role just weighs on the characters, on the reader. Jones has said in interviews that the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan provided the inspiration for this novel and I was a bit apprehensive about thin caricatures of military life or sweeping judgement. Instead, this very deft novel explores the challenge of duty and the obligation of a soldier, the impact of decisions made for the 'greater good' and the fallout when one has to come home after participating in unimaginable cruelty. I found myself empathizing with all the characters, even at their worst, even when I wanted so badly for the story to go in another direction. An absolutely moving war novel -- even for those who might not typically read war fiction.