This is among the most transitional novels I have ever read. It’s so clearly the third of a series of four novels that it almost doesn’t make any sense on its own (and I’ve read the first two) and it’s almost confusing within the context of the whole series two because it has so little connection to the ways in which a novel is told. It’s almost like it couldn’t even muster enough edges and borders to be anything other than the middle chapters of a longer work.
That said, it’s good and it’s the clear next steps of the story.
We find the narrative has shifted away from Sylvia and onto Christopher Tietjens’s new love as she waits for him to return from the war. She looks and she waits.
In the war, Christopher does his best not to die and to certainly not die in the final days of a war that he can tell is ending.
The title of the novel refers to a saying by one of the men in the war about how once the war finally ends and no one is shooting any more, “A Man can stand up on a hill and look” around for the first time in years. And this image becomes a literal understanding of what’s going on in the war, but also a metaphor for the ways in which a traumatic set of events that colors and stresses our sense of ourselves (or our lives, or our bodies, or our cultures or countries) keeps us from understanding things like a sense of the future and broader context.