THE WATERMELON BOYS follows both a family in Baghdad and a young man in South Wales. Set during and after the First World War, both of their stories are shaped by the British campaign in Mesopotamia, and their lives are thrust together during the subsequent Iraqi revolt against the British occupation of Iraq.
Ahmad, Dabriya and their children are cast apart by the conflict when Ahmad goes off to fight. His return should be a happy occasion but they go on to struggle with allegiance, identity, discrimination and betrayal, and come to play an important role in the Arab rebellion against the British.
Carwyn loses his father at an early age, and is forced against his peaceful nature to join the British army. As a Welshman, he struggles with being part of an English cause that he finds increasingly hard to condone, particularly when it comes to the harsh mistreatment of Ahmad’s young sons by his superiors.
THE WATERMELON BOYS not only tells a story that is often overlooked in popular narratives of the First World War, but also informs the state of Iraq as it is today, as well as the current diplomatic relationships of Arab nations with the UK and the US. It reclaims the dominant narrative of the region’s history, delving back to bring out the UK’s destructive influence as a backdrop to contemporary instability; a timely and important consideration for today’s readers.
The story and characters are rich with heartbreak and passion which arise when personal loss and political ardency conspire, yet the prose and dialogue maintain injections of humour and vibrancy, poignantly capturing the resilience of the human spirit.