Sunday, February 6, 2011

Matterhorn; Karl Marlantes


Title: Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War
Author: Karl Marlantes
Publication Year: 2010
Publisher: Blackstone Audio Books
Edition: Audiobook 
Reader: Bronson Pinchot (excellent)
Source: Library
Date Completed: 1/31/2011
Setting: Vietnam War
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Recommend: Yes 

Ever since I listened to The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien, about (5) years ago, I wanted to listen to another audio book about the Vietnam War.  Matterhorn seemed like the perfect choice based on the story and the rave reviews.

The novel is set during the winter monsoon season of 1968-69 on and around a critical fire support base called Matterhorn, which was located near the Laotian boarder. The story's young protagonist, is 2nd Marine Lieutenant, Waino Mellas, the ambitious platoon leader of Bravo Company. Not only is he ambitious, he is smart, Ivy League educated, and thinks also thinks that politics might be in his future. For now, he finds his role as Platoon Leader to be somewhat of a balancing act, between showing some authority and being one of the guys.

The story is not for the squeamish, as early on conditions and situations are explained in vivid detail using words like pus, guts, stories about blood-sucking leeches, dehydration, diarrhea, jungle rot and more. This too, is before the more serious casualties of war take place.  The battle scenes will stay with you as troops are ordered to pump up the body count. Particularly troublesome was the political egotism, with little regard for the men on the battle field. To me, it showed just how inept some of the commanders in charge really were.

Matterhorn was an extremely difficult book for me to review. It was an eye-opener for sure.  It's a novel, yet written in such a way that only someone who experienced the war themselves, could give written such a detailed, realistic account of what the Vietnam War must have been like. The politics, the death scenes, the racial tensions, and even the camaraderie among soldiers. Men who day end and day out were just trying to keep themselves and each other alive one more day.

This was a searing, and unforgettable account of the Vietnam War. There were numerous characters in this story, and I found impossible to keep track of all their names by listening to the audio book. Besides Fitch, Cassidy, Hawke, Blake and Simpson, the rest have disappeared from my mind. I was told that there is some type of chart in the book itself, which is critical in a of this book this size (16 cds or 600 pages).  Bronson Pinchot, the audio book reader was wonderful. If you want to find out what Vietnam must have really been like in the late 1960s, you must read this book. It's long but worth it. 

The author, Karl Marlantes,  is a cum-laude graduate of Yale University and Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, was a Marine in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten air medals. He has lived and traveled all over the world and now writes full time. He and his wife, Anne, have five children and live on a small lake in Washington state. This novel was (30) years in the making.

31 comments:

  1. It's been many years since I read a book about the Vietnam War. I went through quite a phase with it as a teenager, so it's been twenty or more years since then. I'll take a look through this, and have been really getting into audio books lately, so I will check this out.

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  2. I listened to The Things They Carried, too, and have this one waiting on my iPod. :) I haven't heard anything but good about it. Glad to see you agree.

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  3. I've got this one on my Kindle, but I know I'd have to be in the right mood. What I remember of the Vietnam War came to me over the TV as a kid. I think I remember shots of helicopters most. One day this one will appeal to me as the right book of the day. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. I think I would be better off reading (as opposed to listening) to this book. I can handle graphic things in print better. You're the second person I've seen say Bronson Pinchot is a great reader!

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  5. Hmmmmmm, I just not too sure about that one. Have a wonderful Sunday!!!

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  6. Wonderful review, Diane. This has been on my radar for a while. Sounds like one I should read.

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  7. I bought this book and it sits patiently waiting for me to read it. "War" books aren't really my favorite genre, but this got such high marks from so many people I do intend to read it. Great review though! Going with the audio may be an easier route, although I'll take into account the long list of names.

    Our One Book, One Community Book was The Things They Carried, but I couldn't get through it because of what seemed to be the senseless violence repeatedly depicted against animals. What did you think of it? And did you think one book (Matterhorn) was better than the other? Just curious...

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  8. I might have to give this a try as an audiobook too. My SO might really enjoy it and I don't know if I would read it but I've found I some books I wouldn't read, I really enjoy listening too.

    Great review!

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  9. I recently added The Things They Carried to my audible wish list... sounds like this needs to be there, too!

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  10. I hate when they leave things like that chart out of audiobooks. It's easily the biggest flaw with audios, and publishers have got to start fixing it. It would be little to no trouble to include it like liner notes in the CDs, or even as an electronic files. I've downloaded liner notes from iTunes, and I don't understand why publishers are so resistant to give us audiobook listeners the entire experience. Including photo inserts, charts, pictures, and so on.

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    So, could you please follow me, and the blog's twitter? @blogspm
    Well, my blog is in Portuguese but you can comment in English, I’ll understand…
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    Kisses

    http://coisassoparameninasfofis.blogspot.com

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  12. The cast of characters was a help in print, I had to refer to it many times and even had one I written myself. I recommend this book with a warning for the squeamish over and over.

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  13. I heard a really good review of this book on NPR and sort of want to read it but it sounds very intense. I think I need to be in the right frame of mind for something like this. Thank you for sharing your review!

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  14. I've seen this book but your's is the first review I've read about it. Sounds like heavy reading, but something I would be interested in. Thanks for a great review.

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  15. I picked this audio up from the library and only listened to a few minutes and knew I just wasn't in the right mood for it. I think I may try to read it in book format someday, but not anytime soon unless my reading mood changes dramatically.

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  16. Great review Diane; thanks for the warning re the graphic parts of the book. Amazing that this was thirty years in the making, but it sounds like the effort really shows...I have not read alot about Vietnam, altho one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read was David Maraniss' They Marched into Sunlight...

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  17. I saw this on so many best of 2010 lists that I am really looking forward to reading it. It is great to know that you loved it too. I don't think I've ever read a book about the Vietnam war before.

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  18. I haven't read many books about the Vietnam War and have been thinking about doing so. This certainly sounds like a book well worth reading. 30 year in the making is amazing and something to be very proud of.

    Thank you for a great review, Diane. This book is going on my tbr list.
    ~ Amy

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  19. I saw this so many times at the bookstores but didn't buy it. It's in my wish list.

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  20. I just bought this book for my Kindle after reading The Lotus Eaters and getting bit by the Vietnam War bug. I also have The Things They Carried, and am looking forward to it as well. This was a really powerful review, and I know I am also going to have a rather strong reaction to this book based on your thoughts here.

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  21. Sounds epic - everyone gives it a rave review. I will look forward to readin it when I have the chance

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  22. This is a must read for me this year. I think I'm going to try to read it closer to summer time so I have the time to really get into it. Since my son enlisted I've found myself fearful of these books but I know that I must educate myself and learn.

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  23. Bronson Pinchot!? Fun! After loving The Lotus Eaters, I'm eager to read this one in the next few months too. I'm finding myself more and more intrigued with war novels.

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  24. I'm not big on war books but I feel as if I must read this one.

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  25. I have this one on my wishlist but haven't yet gotten to it, because of its size. I'm glad you rated it so highly!

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  26. I was blown away by this book, and it now has a place on my all-time favorites list. Even though it was hard to read, I wanted more. I just felt so invested in the story, I couldn't get it out of my mind for quite awhile after reading it. I referred to the chart several times; it was very helpful. We'll get your review linked on War Through the Generations.

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  27. Anna, thanks for linking my review.

    Have you read UNBROKEN; Hillenbrand? I think you would love it.

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  28. This is one that is definitely going on my list!

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  29. Anna and I both selected this as one of our favorite reads in 2010. We've added your book review link to the Vietnam Book reviews page on War Through the Generations.

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  30. I've been hearing lots about this book, and am waiting impatiently for it to come out! I can't listen to audio books, I am not an audio person and rarely anything I hear stays with me, so it's not an option, sadly. I enjoyed your review and am getting more impatient now to get my hands on the book!

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  31. I've heard such great things about this book. Very nice review - thanks!

    Sue

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