Natalie's Reviews > You Know When the Men Are Gone

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon
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's review
Jun 16, 2011

liked it

I wish I had better feelings about this story. I wanted to like it, and I think that the writer's ability is evident, but these stories all felt very "surface" to me. Yes, they talk about the emotions of the wives, the emotions of the men deployed, but they never felt like they pushed anything. Pardon the non-literary reference, but if this were American Idol, Simon Cowell would call all these stories quite safe. I'm not sure how this was possible, but this woman wrote an entire collection of stories about soldiers and war without ever making any commentary on the war (even implied) or about the controversial aspects of this particular war. In that way, I thought this book was very politically correct and is that something a real writer can ever afford to be?

Like some other reviewers have said, I too felt like the stories were a little repetitive of one another. Sure, these are linked stories and some things should be coming up again, but the themes, the messages, even the characters seemed to be very similar. I didn't really feel like I was getting anything new after reading the first few.

I also wonder why the author chose to tell so many of these stories from the male soldiers' povs. She has a unique experience of living on base, being a wife who is left behind in this strange world when all the men leave, and yet, instead of exploring different aspects of those characters, she chose to go with the men, the more typical war stories. The ones she chose to tell about the women--such as the first one--were clearly the strongest.

I do feel like maybe I'm being a little too harsh on the writer and clearly many people do like these stories quite a bit (including Alan Heathcock, a writer whose latest collection I really admire, so go figure). I would give this writer a second chance and would be interested to see what she would write if she moved away from this subject matter.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
June 12, 2011 – Finished Reading
June 16, 2011 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-5)

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Rhianna The fact that she wrote from the male POV was what bothered me the most. I was really hoping for more of a perspective from those at home.

Selena Why assume there is a political stand taken by the soldiers families? I thought the focus was exactly true to life. War is war. Regardles of what the leadership is deciding. The fact that they are in the military and in danger even at home in training and what that means to each family including the soldier him self. I thought the book gave good perspective from the angels chosen. jmtc

message 3: by Kimberly (new) - added it

Kimberly As a military spouse, I can say that when "the men are gone" politics go out the window. Your husband is sent away to possibly be killed, and nothing else really matters.

Jess I agree with Kimberly...I was a huge critic of the war and still am, but when your spouse is gone, politics are irrelevant...two completely different worlds.

Robin In the Vietnam era we said we weren't for the war or against it. We were in it. And didn't have the option of opinion.

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