Our Boys by Helen Parr review – an outstanding account of soldiers, the Falklands and masculinity

The story of the author’s Uncle Dave, a paratrooper who died in battle, is broadened into a wise, moving study of men and war

Dave Parr died in action on the last day of the Falklands war in 1982 as a 19-year-old private in the Parachute Regiment. His niece, Helen Parr, who was seven at the time, recalls being woken one morning by the sound of a telephone and then her mother entering her bedroom, crying. When she went downstairs, she found the next-door neighbour sitting in the shadows of the sitting room: the curtains had been drawn against the light. After a silence – and “somewhat unexpectedly” – the neighbour said: “He is with Jesus now.”

Parr begins her outstanding study of men at arms with this quiet but calamitous memory. Two years before, Uncle Dave had lived with his mum and his black labrador in a bungalow ...