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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

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  616 ratings  ·  111 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
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Published (first published January 1st 2009)
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Petra X smokin' hot
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.
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
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
Feb 06, 2011 Jay rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jay by: Chris Pearce
Shelves: military
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
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
Timothy Bazzett
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
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
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
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
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
Leora Bersohn
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
Carol Harrison
I admit that I picked this book up at a book sale because of its title, and because I somehow imagined it would be about books that the junior officers actually did read, that made their time in Iraq and Afghanistan more bearable or maybe more understandable. But the first reference to the reading club comes on page 126, roughly halfway through the book, and then it's referred to again a couple of times much later.
The book does offer a unique first-hand account of a young soldier's training and
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
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
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.
Liz Higham
This book was given to me by my brother. He had read it and knew there was mention of my friend who was a Grenadier Guard who was KIA in Afghanistan. I read the book with some trepidation as there are lots of 'true accounts' out there about the war on Afghanistan that are littered with inaccuracies. Most written by people who haven't even seen the front line or who are 'ghost writers'. However i was relieved to find a book that told the true story told in a way that brought a tear to my eye. Wel ...more
A British Millennial writing about his seven months of combat in Afghanistan and trying to shoehorn himself somehow into his own pop culture pretensions of what that should mean. While he mocks the hoary clichés of war literature and film, he appears to desperately trying to validate himself in comparison to them. In the end, he simply ends up living the cliché of the sensitive, but troubled veteran now looking at a world that simply doesn't understand him because of the horror he has seen. Writ ...more
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
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
John Grinstead
It is interesting to read about life in the modern British Army as seen through the eyes of one its young officers, albeit with the swaggering arrogance of a Guardsman. Hennessey actually comes across as surprisingly grounded, albeit that his attitude towards the staff, senior officers and the REMFs is predicatably condescending - how could they possibly know what the contemporary operating environment is all about? He nonetheless produces a good read and a well constructed tale of daring do wit ...more
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
If you did a shot everytime Sandhurst was mentioned you'd be drunk by page ten....okay thats an exaggeration but it is mentioned alot. But thats why I brought the book. I get that little thrill you get when you read about somewhere you've been or live (...just me then?) I had no idea the RMA was so tough. I knew it was hard work but had no idea just how hard. Makes me wonder why any one would want to join the Army. They certainly don't look stressed out when they come into Tesco looking for valu ...more
Jonny McKirgan
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
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
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
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
This book was a great insight into the life of a British solider. It was written very well and really increased my admiration for what the armed forces do. I unfortunately discovered the glossary when I had finished the book, which would have been helpful to know about before, as there are a lot of acronyms. Hennessey keeps the pace moving and writes some great descriptions of characters; his observations of people, systems and cultures are very interesting. All the way through, though, I was wa ...more
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
Shannon Kelleher
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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