Someone Else’s Conflict, by Alison Layland

Someone Else’s Conflict, by Alison Layland

Someone Else’s Conflict opens with a powerful, immediate prologue from the viewpoint of a young boy. He is Serbian, and caught out in the wrong place as Croatian forces come to take his village. Crouching out of sight, he watches his family being rounded up, unable to help, before stumbling into the path of one of the fighters. The man doesn’t kill him, though, instead gesturing towards escape from the horror. The main story, however, unfolds in present day England, and it is the Croatian characters we will find out about. But hold on to the boy’s viewpoint: he has an important part to play.

The main narrative is set in the Dales, around the fictional small town of Holdwick. Marilyn has her purse stolen as she stands to listen to an itinerant storyteller busking in the market square. She has seen a young foreign man hovering on the edges of the crowd, and wonders if the two are in partnership, one distracting whilst the other steals. That night, a wild storm devastates her barn and land. She wakes to find that a landslip has put a halt to her plans for her own pottery workshop, plans which were supposed to liberate her from ex-partner, and ex-business partner, Matt. The busker walks by and, despite her reservations, she follows her instinct of his good faith, agreeing to his offer of help. As they work together, friendship grows and deepens. But Jay is clearly holding something back. How far can Marilyn really believe in him? And why has the young foreigner come back?

There is a crime at the heart of this book, but not in a grandstanding, police-procedural sense. What struck me most was the questioning of trust, and how gut instincts can prevail when reason or even evidence suggest the opposite. The story is told from three viewpoints, that of Jay, Marilyn, and Vinko (the young foreigner). Vinko is a paper-less refugee from the Yugoslav conflict, and the link to the murky world of the Croatian underworld. Jay, we discover, had become involved in the Balkan conflict through his childhood friend Ivan. Jay is haunted by the sense of letting his comrades down, and of his loss of faith in the leaders he was fighting for. He also carries the responsibility of a commission he was asked to undertake at the height of the chaos. He has tried to take the honourable course, but money is involved, and a number of interested parties are confusing the issue. And Vinko’s appearance will turn his decisions on their head.

Layland seamlessly integrates the disparate worlds of the middle class Marilyn, the drifter Jay and the rootless Vinko, as well as weaving in a strong sense of the battle for Yugoslavia. A translator by profession, it’s perhaps no surprise that she also blends a seasoning of the Croatian language in throughout the narrative, rooting us in the culture and history. Someone Else’s Conflict is thoughtful, above all, and takes us into questions of responsibility, of escaping from shadows and of putting things right. A thoroughly enjoyable read!


You can find out more about Alison Layland here, and follow her on Twitter here.

And when you’ve read and enjoyed Someone Else’s Conflict, do take a moment to post a review on Amazon by going here, clicking on ‘Customer Reviews’ and then on the box for ‘Write a Customer Review’. You don’t have to have bought the book through Amazon to leave a review, and you don’t have to write an essay either! A star rating and a few words will mean a lot to the author 🙂

1 Comment

  1. Helena
    23 Apr 2015

    A lovely review, thanks Sarah!
    Helena, Honno Press

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