When Francois Voltaire stated, "every person is guilty of all the good he didn't do", he did not have someone like Trysta Montgomery (Australian humanitarian aid worker) in mind. Although a fictional character in Mishka Gora's debut novel "Fragments of War" Trysta, who to my mind represents the multitude of humanitarian aid workers in war zones across the world, epitomises concern for and selfless dedication to the well being of innocent victims and imminent innocent victims caught amidst brutal wars that weave deeply ethnic cleansing into their combat strategy.
Mishka Gora's pungent novel, most aptly titled "Fragments of War" (ISBN 1 4791 1141 4), launched on 7 September 2012, is mainly set in Croatia (although delivering fragments of gut-wrenching brutality in Bosnia as well) during the 1990's war of Serb-led Yugoslav Peoples' Army and rebel Serb aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although the characters in this novel are fictitious their stories, their experiences, their encounters, their heartbreaks and frequent sighs of helplessness in the face of human brutality and misery reflect the true and intense realities of that war.
Mishka Gora's abundant use of dialogue achieves verisimilitude, real life-likeness. Her own personal experiences in the active role as an Australian humanitarian aid worker in Croatia during the war within which the marrow of "Fragments of War" is drawn undoubtedly contributed, with stark reality and untainted truth, to the body of text cemented on the book's pages. Being a historian and academic she possesses the essential professional story telling skill which arouses the senses to feel and see the reality that once was, no matter how unforgiving or unforgivable that reality might have been.
Using this mise en scène as the spine of her plot, Mishka Gora has through moments and occasions, through fragments of Trysta's otherwise continuous humanitarian aid work during the time encapsulated by the plot, constructed an amazingly rich, emotionally detailed portrait of human nature that addresses several perennial themes -- truth telling, altruism, camaraderie, compassion but also ethnically charged brutality-- while reaching outward to show snippets of a horrendous and merciless existence that befell the innocent and exploring the relationship between time past and time present; the burden of history that breathed with political misconstruction weighing down as likely culprits for ethnic conflicts that jump at us as seemingly endemic ethnic hatreds, when the truth lies elsewhere...
On its most fundamental level "Fragments of War" recounts Trysta's (humanitarian aid workers') daily tasks and heartbreaking encounters within refugee camps in Croatia (Dalmatia and Vukovar) that bore the material and emotional support of both Croatian and Bosnian Muslim refugees and displaced persons, running in their hundreds of thousands but also the crime sprees of Serb rebel and Yugoslav People's Army that included armed looting of humanitarian aid convoys intended for refugees, rape camps and murderous pursuits where human lives and freedom held no value to the aggressor... A MORE DETAILED REVIEW MAY BE FOUND AT [...] THOROUGHLY RECOMMENDED