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The Junior Officers' Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars
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The Junior Officers' Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars

3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  920 Ratings  ·  133 Reviews
Patrick Hennessey is a graduate in his 20s. He reads Graham Greene, listens to early-90s house on his iPod and watches Vietnam movies. He has also, as an officer in the Grenadier Guards, fought in some of the most violent combat the British army has seen in a generation. This is the story of how a modern soldier is made, from the testosterone-heavy breeding ground of Sandh ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published January 1st 2009)
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Petra Eggs
Another book on men enjoying war and not justifying it politically or morally. Not in the same class as Junger's War, but the same sentiments: give a boy a gun and he and his friends will have fun until tea-time, give a man a gun and real live targets to shoot at and he's in heaven, or might be soon.
Jul 01, 2009 Christopher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-readers
Very, very well wrought and very, very conscious of it's place as the first reflective book written by a soldier in his generation.

I read this because I took a class with the author this summer. He didn't talk about the book until after the class had ended and most everyone had left, only a few of us sitting around. He said that one thing he appreciated about America was the tradition of educated, well-written officers in the armed forces. So he wrote this to try to start that up in the UK. Ther
Dec 31, 2010 Jay rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jay by: Chris Pearce
Shelves: military-war
Patrick Hennessey’s reflections of life in the British army from Sandhurst Military Academy through Palace guard duty then military tours into Bosnia, Iraq and, finally, Afghanistan are not an easy read. His work is filled with British slang, personal references and military acronyms. And as one reviewer noted, his prose is “quirky, unconventional, at times stream of consciousness, at others obscure.” For most reviewers, even with those difficulties, there was great value in the book. I am not a ...more
Sep 21, 2011 P J rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Even before the British army totally f**ked up its mission in Basra (aided by the predilection of the squaddies for torturing and murdering the locals) it was paying Patrick Hennessey £1,000 a year bursary towards his university tuition fees. In return he went to Sandhurst, and we should all be grateful. Hennessey’s is a voice unique in our age, reminiscent of an earlier one when privileged young men faced with mud, gas, dismemberment and trenches, brought home to an all-too-soon-to-forget world ...more
Mar 08, 2011 Sean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a rule with books that I must read to the half way point before I allow myself to give up on a bad novel. Struggling for days through this monotonous bore of a book – both in style and in story content – I was desperately looking forward to abandoning Patrick Hennessey’s The Junior Officers' Reading Club. Hennessey writes in an endless stream of consciousness which doubled with his experiences of boredom at Sandhurst (an Officers’ training academy for the British Army) makes for an incred ...more
This memoir is heartbreakingly good, and I don't understand how a person can achieve such wisdom so young; it shifts effortlessly between situations that are farcically ridiculous to ones that are brutal, confusing, and terrifying, telling both with equal skill. Any ideas the reader might have about the military being glamorous or like the movies will be quickly and rudely spoiled, but they'll be replaced by an appreciation for the intense connections and family-like bonds people form when they ...more
Timothy Bazzett
Mar 12, 2012 Timothy Bazzett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the past several years I have read dozens of military memoirs from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but all have been from an American standpoint. Hennessey's is the first I've read by a British army officer. The writing, not surprisingly, is excellent. Hennessey's reasons for entering the army after what appears to have been a very privilged life and university are somewhat vague, although it seems fairly certain that he mostly wanted to test himself in ways that only the military life and the ...more
Seriously considering skipping to the end. I never used to to do that but life is busy and there are more books to read than I will ever possibly find the time to tackle.

Despite the back flap description this is in no way a book about books or reading let alone a reading club. I am more than halfway through and the stream of consciousness style prose, army slang, British slang and pop culture package is just driving me nuts. Oh, and the language - I am usually able to ignore most foul language
Patrick Hennessey's soldiering memoir is a surprisingly self-aware read. A former officer in the Grenadier Guards he has written a remarkably postmodern work of the same ilk as Swofford's Jarhead. A generation of smart, educated and well read young men, entirely aware of the horrors of war, but also quite keen to kill someone.

Hennessey's account is part impossibly posh public schoolboy romp: Sandhurst "Hogwarts with guns", the officers "tray" in Inkerman Company (a sort of giant tuck shop) and t
Jun 22, 2012 Nigeyb rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Despite being a pacifist who doesn't really get why anyone would want to be a soldier, I am interested in war and books about war. I have read some great books on the subject (some that come to mind include `Despatches' by Michael Kerr, `Stalingrad' by Antony Beevor, even `Bravo Two Zero' is a rip-roaring read that gave me some helpful insights). I am sorry to report that - despite the gushing praise all over the cover of this book - that, in comparison this book is pretty dull.

In essence, a man
J. Gibson Hartley
Jan 29, 2017 J. Gibson Hartley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finish this book with great solemnity, trying to fight its conclusions: that surely Hennessey's conclusions are particular and that those who charge off to war, however reluctantly, may return unchanged. One hopes that these warriors may return from distant battlefields to find closure for those they leave behind and may nurse their moral wounds to where their scars fade and are forgotten under suits and stained t-shirts. One must believe that your initial distaste for killing and aversion to ...more
Leora Bersohn
Jun 07, 2014 Leora Bersohn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Bought this for my husband, who was a huge fan, but if you are not in the "boys who love war" demographic, this is not for you. The writing is completely incoherent. Excerpts from emails are treated with reverence as though they were Joycean stream-of-consciousness, with no seeming sense that you should be crafting prose. I started thinking dark thoughts about how British books are not edited as heavily as American ones, right up until I noticed how Hennessey thanks his editor for being so stric ...more
Aug 26, 2011 Louise rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book had parts which were really gripping and gave you a true sense of what it would be like fighting in Afghanistan and the strong bonds of friendship which form among the soldiers and officers. There are some descriptions which are really quite witty and I found myself trying to supress the giggles at times in order to try and keep up the pretence of me reading a "serious" book tackling a dramatic topic.

However, I found large parts of the book hard to follow. I think this had much to do
Apr 13, 2012 Belinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting account of modern day soldiering with particular emphasis on Afghanistan. Great writing and required reading if you really want to know how it is on the front line.
May 29, 2014 Emma rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jumps around a bit but very entertaining. Interesting perspective at times worrying/refreshingly honest. You need a military thesaurus to get through it, luckily I live with one.
Sheri Robinson
Dec 30, 2016 Sheri Robinson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you think you want to read this book, just skip to page 305 and start there. The title made no sense and I guess so many people have said that he has added an essay at the end to explain. He should have just stopped with the essay. He uses way too much British military jargon, too much British language that isn't normally seen in North America and then the rest is an experiment in rambling free verse that is difficult to decipher. If you like military or operations stories choose a different ...more
Will Snell
Mar 02, 2017 Will Snell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not always the easiest of reads, but the tone probably captures best the overall ecstasy, and the content is absolutely unquestionable.
Nov 15, 2010 Justisg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Junior Officers Reading Club Killing Times and Fighting Wars by Parick Hennessy is very good giving you a first person view and describing things so they make sense. The main character you follow from the start of his training to the last day of his tour is Patrick Hennessy. You follow him through the horrible degrading times of training to the mental and physical pains of war. You read through the story seeing his kindness leave him and seeing how war changed the 18 to 20 year old men and w ...more
Dec 31, 2012 John rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A "good read", but due to many wild inaccuracies and his constant self-promotion I often doubted if the author had been in the Army at all. Far from being "the youngest Captain in the Army", for example as he claims, and"commended for his gallantry", he was not promoted early as often happens at 23 or 24 but was promoted at 25 when his promotion was routinely due, and rather tediously he spends five pages complaining about not being given a medal for gallantry.

His basic military knowledge often
Apr 26, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is not a lot about a reading club here. Hennessey started the reading club in Basra. At Sandhurst (“Hogwarts with guns”); books included: Jary’s 18 Platoon, Romeo Dallaire’s Shake Hands with the Devil and Michael Rose’s Fighting for Peace. The book is not about reading recommendations it is about the life of a young officer in the modern British Army, through Sandhurst to tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.

War Movies form a significant part of Sandhurst Teaching Material, films like: Band of Br
Book Calendar
Oct 30, 2010 Book Calendar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, memoir, war
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 17, 2012 Justin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This has been hailed as a war memoir that is set to be a classic. Early on, I wasn't so sure - he comes across as a pretentious and slightly arrogant Guards subaltern (I suppose that should be no surprise!). But the latter part of the book, describing his experiences in Afghanistan, is powerful and vivid, and possibly one of the best descriptions of combat I have ever read. I actually couldn't put the book down towards the end for the gripping descriptions of the action. He is definitely more in ...more
Jonny McKirgan
Jul 22, 2010 Jonny McKirgan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A gripping book that I couldn't put down at times. Hennessey has written a classic memoir of his time in the Armed Forces that should be mandatory reading for new recruits. His writing is engaging, thoughtful and often very humorous (though with dark humour!).

In the book he describes his experiences of over 6 years of serving as an Army officer, from the Sandhurst that hasn't fully emerged from a Cold War era way of thinking, to the theatres of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The latter place and h
Dec 10, 2009 Alanpalmer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is an excellent account of modern life in the British Army. It covers all the bizaree rituals, traditions and seemingly pointless training oficers undergo at Sandhurst, the strange tradition of Ceremonial Duties at the Royal Palaces (and just how little the Officers in guards regiments actually have to do)and then takes the reader to the true horror of modern warfare in Iraq and Afgahnistan. there is no cover up here it is really blood, glory and horror. Some of the finest descriptions of c ...more
Aug 18, 2015 TomF rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's always awkward when an author isn't hugely likeable. This one isn't helped by his unabashed social privilege, frequently testing your empathy as he demobs with the champagne set or identifies with the Bullingdon club (a group known for smashing up restaurants simply because they can afford to). This makes it harder to care as he struggles through his gruelling officers' training. Thankfully it's still interesting to see how the minds of the UK's fighting elite are formed, and this interest ...more
I had no real expectations when I began reading this book. The first sections put me off as I found it difficult to follow the style. Perhaps it was a generational difference or British vs American English which made it difficult to assimilate. It might be called a coming-of-age memoir and certainly points up how each generation learns the facts of life and war anew. The growing separation between himself and his civilian friends seems to surprise him - though he recognizes the indoctrination he ...more
Brooke Bove
There are a lot of things I really liked about this memoir, and there was one thing that really disappointed me. I'll start with the negative - let's deal with the bad stuff first, get it out of the way, then really enjoy all the great things in this book.

I got this book for Christmas, after having had it on my reading list for some time. I love books about books and books about reading. Unfortunately, this memoir is not about books or about reading. It is about war. There are references to book
Nov 07, 2010 Ryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picked this up in the Orlando Airport en route to Panama City to attend the Florida Defense Alliance, so I guess I should not be surprised that I gravitated to piece of combat literature. Was intrigued by the British point of view of the author as well as the first hand perspective from an army officer in Afghanistan. I'm an admitted fan of war lit and this is my first read on the Afghan war and I appreciated the POV from a young officer. The first part of the book centers around the author's ti ...more
Aug 02, 2011 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This well written book is a memoir of a third generation British military Oxford graduate surprises everyone (including himself) when he sighs us for Sandhurst, the Military college. He's in pretty good shape, so the basic physical training goes well.He complains about the class work saying that he is being taught outdated techniques for WWII and/or the Faulklands type of warfare, knowing he will be in Iraq in a few months.After graduation, it's to London to walk around in big fully hats and mar ...more
Shannon Kelleher
Jan 28, 2013 Shannon Kelleher rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
I so wanted to like this book... but unless you were a British young man who went through officer training school in the 2000s this book isn't for you. The writing has moments where you realize with a good editor this could be a decent book, BUT there wasn't a good editor. In the forward, the author talks about the reading club and mentions it started in officer training school and ended by the time they got to Afghanistan. Then the first chapter drops us into Afghanistan in the middle of the de ...more
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Patrick Hennessey was born in 1982 and educated at Berkhamsted School and Balliol College, Oxford, where he read English. He joined the Army in January 2004, undertaking officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst where he was awarded the Queen's Medal and commissioned into The Grenadier Guards. He served as a Platoon Commander and later Company Operations Officer from the end of 2004 ...more
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