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The Letter Bearer

Letter Bearer display shot

1942, and an injured motorcycle rider regains consciousness in the Libyan desert, unable to recall his past. After his rescue by a band of British Army deserters, he turns to the post bag of letters found alongside him in the hope of learning his identity. But time may be running out, his injuries thought fatal, the deserters' camp discovered and destroyed, forcing the group into a gruelling escape across the desert. And for the rider, haunted now by spectres of a possible past, the journey will not only be a physical ordeal but a battle of conscience.

Critical reception

  • Awarded the 2015 Society of Authors' McKitterick Prize.
  • Shortlisted for the 2015 Authors' Club Best First Novel Award.
  • Shortlisted for the 2014 Desmond Elliott Prize.
  • One of Ali Smith's 3 favourite debuts of 2014.
  • 'a finely crafted debut...Allison writes powerfully - often thrillingly - about the nitty-gritty of conflict' (Adrian Turpin,The Financial Times)
  • 'a beautifully written investigation into alienation, guilt and the will to survive' (Kate Williams, The Independent)
  • 'haunting...poignant...delivered with an unerring eye for detail' (David Robson, The Sunday Telegraph)
  • 'Allison’s astonishing debut is one of the more original and quite unforgettable takes on the war (paperback edition)' (Lesley McDowell, The Independent)
  • 'wholly original...Allison writes superbly about men's journey through harsh country that renders complex moral questions down to brutal and necessary decision points' (Chris Cleave)
  • 'a novel which lifts the fog of war by stages to reveal not chaos but a dreadful moral clarity' (James Buchan)
  • 'a compelling and strikingly unsentimental story of men caught up in war's lunacy' (David Downing)