Author: Tim O'Brien
Summary: In 1979, Tim O'Brien's Going After Cacciato--a novel about the Vietnam War--won the National Book Award. In this, his second work of fiction about Vietnam, O'Brien's unique artistic vision is again clearly demonstrated. Neither a novel nor a short story collection, it is an arc of fictional episodes, taking place in the childhoods of its characters, in the jungles of Vietnam and back home in America two decades later.
Stories included in the collection:
- The Things They Carried
- On the Rainy River
- How to Tell a True War Story
- The Dentist
- Sweetheart of the Tra Bong
- The Man I Killed
- Speaking of Courage
- In the Field
- Good Form
- Field Trip
- The Ghost Soldiers
- Night Life
- The Lives of the Dead
My Rating: 8.5/10
What I liked/disliked about the book: Not only was this a well written book, but a great choice to use for the War Through the Generations: Vietnam Reading Challenge, I’m participating in. This book was exactly what I was looking for in a war story. Similar to The Wars by Timothy Findley, this book portrays a very realistic look to the lives of the soldiers fighting in the war, as well as their mindsets and feelings on the matter. The first short story, which shares its title with the title of the collection, was one of my favourites, as it depicts both the physical and mental burdens the men carried with them while fighting in the war.
One interesting thing about this collection was although it was a book of short stories, the same characters kept re-surfacing through out the book. I really liked this aspect of the book, because it allowed the reader to be able to see a wider range of events, over a large span of time, but still have the same familiar characters and be able to watch them develop, or see how they react to the different situations they were faced with. It gave the reader a more intimate feeling, because you were already used to a set of characters, and didn’t have to be re-introduced to a new set with each short story you read.
Another aspect of the book I liked, were the haunting images O’Brien was able to paint for the reader. Whether it was the reactions of the characters to their own actions, like in “The Man I Killed”, or just the harsh realties of war, O’Brien does a fantastic job at bringing to life, the images of the war to the reader.
What I didn’t like, nothing big really stands out, I didn’t enjoy some short stories, one or two were a little boring, but over all most of them I enjoyed. I also found some scenes that were written in the book were a little gruesome but there wasn’t really any one big thing that I can think of that made me dislike the book, just very small things here and there.
Overall a fantastic book, and a great “introduction” to Tim O’Brien (originally I was going to use this for New Author (to me) challenge, but then I realized, “The Man I Killed” was in a collection of short stories book I used in a college English Class. Darn!) Definitely worth reading.
Would I recommend it to read: Yes I would. Even if you're not a big fan of war-related books, I think this is a worthwhile book to read. It concentrates less on fighting, blowing things up, and more on the soldiers them selves (although those other elements are there). It also is a book that does not glorify the war, which I always like. The writing style is also well done.
What to read next: The Wars - Timothy Findley, All Quite on the Western Front, And anything else by Tim O'Brien
Challenges: Read 'n' Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 100+ Challenge, A - Z Challenge,
Support Your Library Challenge, War Through the Generations: Vietnam