Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker Queen of the Undead's Reviews > Matterhorn

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
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's review
Oct 11, 2011

it was amazing
Read from September 15 to 28, 2011

My husband is a history/military/war fanatic. The history and/or military channel is on all the time. I’ve fallen asleep with the military channel on and had some very naughty dreams of Dan Snow and little red and blue soldiers (see 20th Century Battlefields if you are wondering what the heck I’m talking about).

So, imagine my surprise when I wanted to read Matterhorn. I mean, come on, don’t I get enough “war” on tv? I guess not.

Imagine my delight when Matterhorn turned out to be much more than a “war” book. It turned out to be much more than a “Vietnam” book. It turned out to be much more than a “guy” book. It turned out to be one of my favorite books of all time.

As my employees always point out, I am a big book cheerleader and I have a tendency to push my favorites on them (like they have a choice, I AM their boss..hehe). However, I am hesitant to share Matterhorn with anyone. I don’t want to hear bad things about the book. I feel as though I’d be personally offended. How can anyone not love the book I couldn’t stop reading (ok, technically listening to)? How can anyone not feel their heart break in half when a favorite character’s survival is questionable? I’m a bit protective of books I simply adore and it is weird to say I adored a book set in Vietnam with a ton of graphic violence, racism, politics, disease and death. Nevertheless, I simply adored it.

Why I loved this book?

I became completely and totally invested in each and every character. Marlantes made me love and/or hate his characters so completely that I felt a profound loss when the book was over. When a reader can have that type of relationship with the characters in a book, the book is unforgettable, and beautiful, in my opinion (of course).

How invested was I?

My house went from….



I was like a zombie (of course, I’d pick zombie). I would stand in my kitchen and wash the same dish over and over again just so I could listen to a bit more of the audiobook.

Don’t tell my family but I even resorted to driving around my block just so I wouldn’t reach my driveway after work. I could not stop listening to this audiobook. And before I forget….

Do you remember Balki from Perfect Strangers?

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He is the narrator!

Now before you laugh too hard, I must admit that I triple-checked my audiobook to make sure Bronson Pinchot was indeed the narrator of MY audiobook. Because the guy narrating my audiobook sure didn’t sound like Balki. Instead, he was an incredible narrator. All the voices were distinct, and I had no trouble understanding one voice from another even though the cast of characters was big! I was finally convinced that it was actually Bronson Pinchot narrating my audiobook after reading this article…


Now back to the story

The book has many graphic, violent scenes.Why am I telling you this? Because it is what it is and I don’t want someone to start to read it and stop reading due to the violence. Remember, I am very protective of this book. The book is full of military terminology and can be confusing. Why am I telling you this? Again, if you know what to expect, you won’t shut the book when you come across it.

Whatever you do, don’t give up on the terminology and confusing parts. It took me three chapters to finally “get it” and after that, I was right along with platoon commander Mellas when he was lying on the wet jungle floor hoping that the Viet Cong couldn’t hear his shallow breath. I was cheering when Hawk gave his J Hawk salute or worried about China when I finally realized he was a nice guy.

This is NOT a book about a war.
This is NOT a book about Vietnam.
This is NOT a book about politics.
It IS a book about growing up.
It IS a book about unity.
It IS a book about sacrifice.
It IS a book about loss.
It IS a book about discovering what is important and what you can and cannot live without.

Update (October 11)- I'm pissed. This audiobook has ruined all other audiobooks for me. Nothing has been good since listening to Matterhorn. Damn great book!
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Quotes Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker Liked

Karl Marlantes
“He ran as he'd never run before, with neither hope nor despair. He ran because the world was divided into opposites and his side had already been chosen for him, his only choice being whether or not to play his part with heart and courage. He ran because fate had placed him in a position of responsibility and he had accepted the burden. He ran because his self-respect required it. He ran because he loved his friends and this was the only thing he could do to end the madness that was killing and maiming them.”
Karl Marlantes, Matterhorn

Karl Marlantes
“He lay before God as a woman opens herself to a man, with legs apart, stomach exposed, arms open. But unlike some women, he did not have the inner strength that allowed them to do such a thing without fear. There was no woman’s strength in Mellas at all.”
Karl Marlantes, Matterhorn

Reading Progress

1.0% "If the opening paragraph is any indication.... I'm in for quite the book. Thankfully, I know war/military terminology since I'm already getting an earful (listening on audiobook)."
1.0% "leech up the penis.. (yes I know, another penis update--merely a coincidence..i promise)"
5.0% "This book reminds me of why I love historical fiction so much! Absolutely fantastic."
10.0% "I'm starting to understand my mom's ex-husband when he said "You are in Vietnam, and then Vietnam is in you"."
11.0% "Early this morning, I walked an extra mile (usually do 3 miles in the morning, 2 miles in the evening) just so I could continue listening to this book. This is NOT just a "war" book or a "vietnam" book, it is about survival, friendship, life altering decisions and accountability. THAT is why I'm hooked."
20.0% "This Simpson guy is going to be bad, bad news. He doesn't like anyone else to have the spotlight. I think his name was Simpson, whatever, he is going to kill people with his badass attitude."
22.0% "War is so fucked up (excuse my language but really, is there any better word for it)."
23.0% "OMG...Williams..tiger. WTF, you are in Vietnam, expecting to die via grenade or mine or maybe a gun/rifle or even an aircraft weapon. You don't expect a goddamn tiger to crunch your head until everyone around you hears it go "pop"!"
23.0% "I like this book so much that I ordered a hardcopy of it just for my keeper shelf."
33.0% "Simpson is such a horrible man. I know there were men out there like him. Men that sat on their cushy chairs, drinking and eating, while they played with men's lives out in the jungle as if they were nothing but chess pieces to control. They are starving, their skin is rotting, they can barely stand and he is yelling for them to make an impossible deadline!"
33.0% "I cried in my car on my way to my daughter's water polo match. What these men, hell they aren't men, they are only 18, 19 years old, what these boys had to endure was so horrible that it made me cry." 3 comments
40.0% "China is going to be trouble. I really like Jackson."
50.0% "I think about this book all the time. It is so intense. Definitely not everyone's taste but should be read by everyone."
50.0% "This book keeps making me look up things about Vietnam. Dogs were used to help the platoons. Each dog had a dog handler and often times that dog saved countless lives by warning the men that there were enemies, landmines, or other bad things in the area. Ok, long story short.. some men extended their tours just because of their dogs. Why? The dog was killed when the dog handlers tour was over! SO SAD!" 6 comments
50.0% "jungle rot, ringworm, immersion foot, cerebral malaria. man oh man oh man.....what a fucked up war."
67.0% "This book is killing me. It is so sad, and depressing, and realistic but like a car crash where you can't look away, I can't stop listening to the audiobook. I never thought I'd feel anything for Mellas. He started off as a medal seeking unsympathetic character. Now, he is a heartwrenching emotion and I'm begging that the author makes him survive!"
71.0% "Hawk!!!"
75.0% "I am literally scared to continue with the audiobook. I don't want another character that I know and care about to die. I find myself holding my breath when the fighting starts up again or when the character hears a branch crack in the silence of the night or sees the whites of eyes that don't belong to the Marines. Can you tell I'm enthralled by the book?"
92.0% "I had to stop. I was crying too much and I had to go into work."
92.0% "oh please, please, please give Mellas a moment of peace with the red-headed nurse. Please!!!"
98.0% "Almost done. I don't want this book to end. Simply one of the best I've EVER read."
02/16 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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message 1: by Jen (last edited Oct 10, 2011 12:29PM) (new)

Jen What an excellent review. This is totally not my type of book but I may just read it based upon your review.

message 2: by Catie (new)

Catie I've listened to a few books narrated by Bronson Pinchot (The Bayou Trilogy: Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing, and The Ones You Do and Strangers on a Train come to mind) and he's wonderful! He does great voices and accents. He might be one of my favorite narrators!

message 3: by Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker (last edited Oct 10, 2011 12:28PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker  Queen of the Undead Jen wrote: "What an excellent review. This is totally not my type of book but I must just read it based upon your review."

Thanks Jen. I've been putting this review off just because I have such strong feelings about the book. I actually bought a hard cover of the book AFTER I listened to it on audiobook just because I wanted it for my keeper shelf.

Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker  Queen of the Undead Catie wrote: "I've listened to a few books narrated by Bronson Pinchot (The Bayou Trilogy: Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing, and The Ones You Do and Strangers on a Train c..."

This was my first Bronson Pinchot narrated audiobook and I was blown away by him. I STILL cannot believe it was him. I thought I was listening to the one Matterhorn audibook narrated by someone else. I definitely will listen to his other books. He's great.

message 5: by Catie (new)

Catie I was completely shocked too! He has such a deep voice! But he also does women pretty well.

Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker  Queen of the Undead Catie wrote: "I was completely shocked too! He has such a deep voice! But he also does women pretty well."

He does. I rarely hear male narrators handle female voices but he did it! Now there was a total of only three female characters in this entire novel but he did their voices fine.

message 7: by Tarra (new) - added it

Tarra What a champion of this book! I agree with Jen, its not my usual choice, but I may pick it up based on your recommendation (Even though it's hard for you to share it!). I will definitely buy it for my dad (Retired Army Officer - Hoo Ahh). I'm always looking for a gift that may impress him.

Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker  Queen of the Undead Your dad will LOVE this book (I hope)!

message 9: by Gea (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gea Great review!

Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker  Queen of the Undead Gea wrote: "Great review!"

Thank you so much.

Michael I listened to the audiobook as well and had a similar experience to yours, right down to the housecleaning and driving experiences. Thanks for encapsulating it so perfectly.

message 12: by Ken (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ken Breaux This is a book about war and about Vietnam and about the futility of all sorts of things but it is also about much, much more as you indicated. Good review.

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