On 12 May 2009 Margaret Evison's son Lieutenant Mark Evison of 1st Battalion, The Welsh Guards, died of wounds sustained whilst leading a patrol in Helmand Province. Hailed a hero, Mark's death was a national sacrifice, his grave to be one of many in the identical, ordered rows in a military cemetery. But to his mother Margaret it was the most intimate of griefs. In Death of a Soldier, she attempts to reconcile her own unanswerable sense of loss with the idea that her son died for a good cause. With her, we confront the horror of his death and witness her struggle to see epithets such as 'heroic' and 'noble' as more than a mask to hide that ugliness. Included in the book is Mark's diary, kept while he was in Afghanistan and delivered to Margaret at home some weeks later. Widely quoted since its discovery, it contains the thoughts of a sensitive young officer and serves as a poignant reminder of the terrible human cost of the war in Afghanistan. Death of a Soldier is an extraordinarily powerful tribute to Mark and a testament to Margaret's great love for him.
It paints a portrait of Mark's short but accomplished life, bringing his extraordinary character into relief and underlining the loss suffered by all who knew him. Whilst this is a book about the nature of grief, it is also the story of a mother's struggle to understand how and why her son came to die, and as such it touches on issues of public interest. As Margaret eloquently demonstrates, that mixture of the personal and political is what uniquely characterises the death of a soldier. Articulate, revealing and at times almost unbearably moving, this is an important reflection on loss, war and our responsibilites to those we send to fight.