The Medic followed Desmond Doss through his WWII experiences. Doss was a conscientious objector—willing to join the army and treat wounded soldiers, bThe Medic followed Desmond Doss through his WWII experiences. Doss was a conscientious objector—willing to join the army and treat wounded soldiers, but unwilling to kill, handle a weapon, or work on the Sabbath. Doss was a Seventh Day Adventist, which interested me because some of my childhood neighbors belonged to that religion. I went to Summer Bible School with one of them and I think he came to Mormon Primary activities with me. The neighbors were good people and I respected them and their faith.
In the author’s notes at the beginning, Palmer explained that he categorized the book as fiction because he added dialog and internal thoughts that weren’t necessarily documented. Fair enough. Despite its classification, the book read more like nonfiction than like a novel. A lot of the action was summarized, rather than written out in scenes. This was especially true in the beginning, which covered training and transport to the Pacific Theater. Some of the info dumps didn’t directly move the plot forward, but I enjoy learning about the WWII era, so I didn’t mind that as much as other readers might.
I felt the book’s strongest part was on Okinawa as Doss’s unit tried to take Hacksaw Ridge from the Japanese. It was during the various attempts to take the ridge that Doss’s faith and kindness and God’s mercy and protection truly shone. After Okinawa, Doss was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. You can read the summary here: http://www.cmohs.org/recipient-detail... (But the version in the book is more detailed and much more moving.)
In summary, I thought the first part was OK and the last part good. Doss’s real-life story is a powerful one. I also appreciated that the book was what I’d classify as clean. About 3.5, rounded up for Goodreads.
*I received a complimentary electronic copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion. ...more
I looked forward to reading this because I’d heard such good things about it, but I finished it with mixed feelings. Overall, the book was almost beauI looked forward to reading this because I’d heard such good things about it, but I finished it with mixed feelings. Overall, the book was almost beautiful and magnificent. Almost. But a few research mistakes ruined it for me.
(view spoiler)[It started out a little slow. Beautiful language, but so much description that it slowed the pacing. That’s a reader preference thing, though, and I got used to it. Then I got to this line: “The Maginot Line broken. French soldiers dead in the trenches and running from the front.” Um, the Germans didn’t break the Maginot Line. They went around it. And French soldiers in trenches? Not in 1940. Then there was talk about how Edith Cavell saved the lives of hundreds of Allied airmen during WWI. There were probably a few airmen among those she helped, but most of the men were solders, not airmen. Those were strikes one and two.
I almost stopped reading, but I decided I’d give the book three strikes before I put it down.
Two-thirds into the book I was engrossed with the characters and their growth and the complicated relationships and difficult choices they were making. Then strike three hit. (Actually, it was strike three, four, and five all within a few pages.) A character went to meet other members of the French Resistance, at night, in 1942 (when the "Free Zone" still existed). She noticed a group of planes bombing the local airfield. American planes. One crashed. The next day a German officer mentioned it was a Mustang. A Mustang is a fighter, not a bomber. And even if it was a bomber, the Americans did daylight bombing, not nighttime bombing. And the P-51 Mustang wasn’t in Europe until the end of 1943. It was kind of a big deal because prior to the Mustang’s arrival, bombing missions suffered horrible casualties. The joke was that the bombers had fighter escort the whole mission—right about the time the friendly fighters had to turn back because of their limited range, the Luftwaffe showed up.
I skimmed the rest of the book. The Ardeatina Caves massacre was mentioned, with some wrong information. 33 Germans died, not the 28 mentioned in this novel. And since the retaliation was 10 Italians executed for each German death, the difference in those numbers was quite significant for 50 men and their families. (The Nazis also miscounted and killed five extra, but that still might have happened had the numbers been 280/285 instead of 330/335.)
Then there was mention of a French veteran of the First World War worrying about his choice to join the army back then. Since military service was mandatory for Frenchmen in the years leading up to and continuing through WWI, I don’t think the man in question really had a choice. (hide spoiler)]
This book is wildly popular and the writing is very good and the story compelling. It includes a great message about the importance of doing what’s right instead of doing what’s safe. The author got a lot of things right in her research, which made the few lapses that much more disappointing.
If you haven’t read a ton about WWII, then you’ll probably still like the book. If you have read a great deal about WWII, then you may want to skip it. But I can’t recommend much else, because most other WWII books have mistakes in them too. I think I’m going to have to face the fact that unless the author lived through the war (and maybe even then), there will be research errors.
Finally, a content warning (for those who care). (view spoiler)[Some swearing in the book, including the f-word. Most of the swearing is in French. Some sexual content, but not detailed. (A scene between a married couple. A scene between an unmarried couple. A rape. The focus is on the emotion and feelings rather than the actions and body parts.) Some war violence. The author gave enough information for the reader to know what was going on, but she didn’t beat readers over the head with it. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I was excited to read this book, because I used to love Alistair MacLean. But I was also nervous to read this book, because I used to love Alistair MaI was excited to read this book, because I used to love Alistair MacLean. But I was also nervous to read this book, because I used to love Alistair MacLean, and what if he wasn’t as good as I remembered? I did enjoy the book, but it took me a while to get into it. I think that’s because the protagonist is the crew as a whole, so it didn’t feel like there was a main character, just a lot of secondary characters. But as with most novels, by the middle, even secondary characters can be compelling and I may have shed a few tears by the end of the story.
The book revolves around the WWII Arctic convoys. The Ulysses had been on Arctic duty for some time as the book begins, and the duty isn’t easy. It’s so rough that they’ve just squashed a slight mutiny. Despite their exhaustion and bad morale, they set out again to escort ships carrying fuel, tanks, and planes to the Soviet Union. Along they way they battle horrid weather, the German navy (surface and underwater fleet), the German air force, and indifference and incompetence from the Royal Navy back in England. They rarely have more than a minute or two of down time before the next crisis emerges, so it’s a good novel for fans of fast-paced, action-packed stories. Many of his other novels have happier endings, so if you prefer happy endings over beautifully tragic books, I’d recommend trying a different one. On the other hand, this one does a good job giving readers a taste of the trials and sacrifices common on assignments like that, giving me a greater appreciation for what WWII Arctic convoys went through. It’s fiction, but I doubt it’s too far off reality. ...more
I liked the concept of this book. It’s the story of Esther from the Bible, but set during WWII. Esther is Hadassah Benjamin, a Jewish woman posing asI liked the concept of this book. It’s the story of Esther from the Bible, but set during WWII. Esther is Hadassah Benjamin, a Jewish woman posing as an Aryan, Stella Muller. She ends up in Dachau, despite her false papers, after she doesn’t give in to a creepy Gestapo officer and he stamps her papers as Jewish in retaliation for her rejection. Ahasuerus/Xerxes is SS Colonel Aric Von Schmidt, a slightly disabled veteran of Stalingrad. He saves her from Dachau and sets her up as his secretary.
I’ve read a few retellings of the Esther story. Naturally there’s the part where Esther is beautiful and wins the love of the emperor. Then there’s the part were Haman arranges to have all the Jews killed and Esther has to risk her life to plea for her people. I think a good novelized form of the story needs the romance aspect and a real sense that Esther is risking her life at the climax of the book. Some retellings focus on the romance so much that when Esther has to plea for her people, I find myself thinking “duh he’s not going to kill her, even if I hadn’t read the Bible I’d know that.” There are some exceptions. In Hadassah: One Night with the King, Tommy Tenney creates plausible uncertainty by sending Ahasuerus off to war against the Greeks for a few years. Breslin also creates plenty of plausible uncertainty. Is there a chance the commandant of a transit camp for Jews would turn over the woman he loves if he found out she’s Jewish? You bet. He’s not an all-powerful emperor, but a man bound by duty to obey despicable people like Himmler and Eichmann. Helping the Jews will earn him the death penalty.
There were a few historical stretches, but I didn't notice any outright errors. Schmidt is a very young colonel. And early in the book they run into the SA. I had thought the SA was pretty much gone after the Night of Long Knives, but I looked it up and I guess they were around, just in greatly reduced numbers and power.
The romance is clean. I enjoyed the early parts of their relationship, but the last 15 to 20% was a little mushier than what I prefer. And I liked that both Aric and Stella struggled with issues of faith and gradually began believing in God again, but there were a few times when I thought they were overly preachy.
The concept gets 5 stars, the execution 4. For readers who enjoy clean reads, this one had no swearing, the romance is limited to kissing, and though violence and suffering are present, it’s not gory....more
I'm a little biased since I wrote the book, but I think it's an awesome read! A good choice for readers who like spy thrillers, clean romance, or geneI'm a little biased since I wrote the book, but I think it's an awesome read! A good choice for readers who like spy thrillers, clean romance, or general historical fiction....more