CuteBadger's Reviews > The Pacific

The Pacific by Hugh Ambrose
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Nov 14, 10

Read from November 09 to 13, 2010

The Pacific, which ties in with the Steven Spielberg-produced TV series of the same name, tells the real-life stories of five men who fought in the United States’ Pacific War against Japan. The lives of these individuals allow the author to also paint the broader canvas of the campaign in the Pacific and present a clear history of action from the surrender of Bataan to the end of the war in the East.

The five men featured in the book came from varied backgrounds and took different roles in combat, meaning that the author is able to give an all-round view of events and a balanced view of what went on. Some of the men are easier to identify with than others, so there’s bound to be at least one of them the reader is interested in.

As a woman, I haven’t read much military history and as a Brit my knowledge of World War II is almost entirely related to the war in Europe and Commonwealth campaigns in the Far East, so I didn’t have much prior knowledge of the events covered in The Pacific. I found the technique of presenting events through the eyes of the five men helpful – without it the book would have been very dry.

However, I would have liked to hear the actual voices of the men more, perhaps with more extracts from their memoirs, diaries and letters, rather than the third person narration which makes up the vast majority of the book. I felt that this style of narration made events less immediate and a bit too “matter of fact” at times – it seems to remove much of the emotion from the narrative, so that even when shocking and tragic events take place, it’s perhaps too easy to remain detached.

I’d also have found a glossary of terms and abbreviations helpful, as there are hundreds of acronyms, aeroplane and vehicle names etc that I wasn’t familiar with. I’m sure they’re all defined somewhere in the book, but it would have been useful to have a glossary to refer back to while reading.

A large map of the whole Pacific region would also have been a help as it would have allowed me to get the geography or the whole area fixed in my head. There are several small maps provided in the text, each covering a single field of battle e.g. Bataan and Iwo Jima, but this didn’t allow me to understand the distances between individual places and the US route towards Japan.

Having said all that, I did enjoy the book a great deal more than I expected to and have learnt a lot about that period of history in general, and the US military mind in particular. As I didn’t really know anything about the Pacific War before reading the book, I can’t judge whether it’s an accurate representation of events, but I found it gripping and something that I had to get to the end of.

However, I still feel that I want to seek out the real words of some of the men portrayed in the book, in order to gain a more immediate view of this terrible time in history.
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