Somerville Reads is a project that promotes literacy and community by encouraging people all over the City to read and discuss books on the same theme. For our third annual program, the subject is food—local, sustainable, delicious!

Friday, March 26, 2010

New Novel on Vietnam War

A new novel has just arrived that deserves a worthy mention. Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, is Karl Marlantes' first novel. Thirty years in the making, this novel makes a grand entrance into the genre of Vietnam War fiction. To reserve a copy from the library, click here.

Due to the efforts of such soldier-writers as James Webb and Tim O'Brien, the Vietnam novel has come of age, and this is a worthy addition to the genre. Marlantes, a former marine who was awarded the Navy Cross in Vietnam, sets his debut in Quang-Tri Province, at an American fire-support base. The environment is painted in vivid, intense hues: the fog malevolent, the bugs and leeches constant torturers, and jungle rot universal. The enemy is always near and often unseen until firefights explode with shocking savagery. But this novel isn't flawless. The major characters fill traditional roles: the young, inexperienced lieutenant; his grizzled, tough sergeant; and the cowardly griper. The contempt shown by the soldiers for the supposedly uncaring brass and politicians often seems over the top. Still, the characters are, if traditional, certainly believable. This tough, unsentimental saga is filled with frightened men; most endure and achieve a certain nobility in spite of themselves. An engrossing chronicle of men at war.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2009 Booklist

Publishers Weekly
Thirty years in the making, Marlantes's epic debut is a dense, vivid narrative spanning many months in the lives of American troops in Vietnam as they trudge across enemy lines, encountering danger from opposing forces as well as on their home turf. Marine lieutenant and platoon commander Waino Mellas is braving a 13-month tour in Quang-Tri province, where he is assigned to a fire-support base and befriends Hawke, older at 22; both learn about life, loss, and the horrors of war. Jungle rot, leeches dropping from tree branches, malnourishment, drenching monsoons, mudslides, exposure to Agent Orange, and wild animals wreak havoc as brigade members face punishing combat and grapple with bitterness, rage, disease, alcoholism, and hubris. A decorated Vietnam veteran, the author clearly understands his playing field (including military jargon that can get lost in translation), and by examining both the internal and external struggles of the battalion, he brings a long, torturous war back to life with realistic characters and authentic, thrilling combat sequences. Marlantes's debut may be daunting in length, but it remains a grand, distinctive accomplishment. (Apr.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.