Carol's Reviews > Matterhorn

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
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's review
Feb 11, 11

bookshelves: historical-fiction, vietnam
Read in February, 2011

Oh, my! I just finished reading Matterhorn, and my mind is reeling! I have not read many books about the Vietnam War, and I was expecting to increase my knowledge as to the backgrounds of the North and South, customs of the people, why we were there, what it was like to fight, etc. Well, the only one it thoroughly answered was “what was it like to fight?” and what an eye-opener it turned out to be!

Yes, I had heard about jungle fighting (in general terms), Agent Orange, horrible injuries, the expected hardships of war, and of course, death; but Marlantes describes these experiences in such vivid terms, that I no longer need to know or want to know any more about what this was like! It was almost worse reading about it than it was to see newsreels and photos of the tragedies. The effects of weather, insects, animals, filth, disease, and lack of food and water all contributed to an excruciating life. What was almost harder, for me, and shockingly so, was to learn about the in-fighting among the soldiers; the many mistakes that were made from carelessness or ineptitude; the egos and politics that led to life-threatening (and loss of life) decisions; and the horrendous consequences of racism. (I had no idea this last one was as prevalent as the author made it sound. How sad!) Nearly half of the book focused on these issues, before it even got to the dreadful nitty-gritty of the battlefield. In all war stories, and in real life, I can never understand why killing one another is such a popular way to try to solve problems. What a waste! And this book only reinforced that for me.

As for rating this book, since the stars are described in terms of “liking,” I cannot give it a 4 for “I really liked it” while in fact, it made me very angry! However, I am giving it a 4 for a worthwhile read to make one think! I rate it only a 3 for style. It was a difficult read with the many military terms and lengthy descriptions of maneuvers, but the glossary in the back of the book is quite helpful. At other times, though, Marlantes writes beautifully about such things as courage, friendship, religion, loyalty, and dedication. This is not a book I will soon forget.
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