Sunday, January 23, 2011

Review: Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War 

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very intense, very dark novel that takes place in Vietnam. I have to admit that I very rarely read war books, particularly Vietnam books after a childhood experience that scared me. A family member was a Marine in Vietnam and came home with quite a few photographs of some very ugly, brutal scenes. My cousin and I came across them one day and it was the most frightening thing I've EVER seen. I was very disturbed and pretty much avoid things related to the Vietnam experience to the best of my ability. And, so, I really only decided to read this book after months of rave reviews by bookish friends who said it was a book to not be missed.

First and foremost, this book is intense and difficult to read and very long. It seemed to take a long time to read for me. It certainly wasn't a quick read. It's dark. It's twisty. It's frightening. It's sad. It's raw. And, frankly, it's brilliant. It's well written. Marlantes is a wonderful writer who knows exactly how to compel a reader to keep with a story even when its difficult subject matter to read. He did not pull any punches. I truly felt as if I was there with the characters on their journey. His writing truly brought to life the sounds, smells and horrific experiences of war. Perhaps it is his own time in Vietnam that allowed him to write about it in a way that brought it alive for me. And the stories he told were new ... it wasn't a rehash of all the other Vietnam novels and movies that we've all read/seen. It gave me an entirely new perspective on the Vietnam war and reiterated how horrific it really was. This novel just tore my heart out.

I'm having a difficult time saying that I liked this book or enjoyed it as its material makes it difficult to 'like.' But I do appreciate its value and am amazed at what a compelling novel this is. It's a difficult book to get out of your head both while reading it and after reading it. The characters in the novel will stay with me for some time. This is a phenomenal novel. It isn't for everyone but for those who can handle the difficult material, it is a novel to consider.

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