Book review: Matterhorn, A Novel of the Vietnam War

Posted on Monday, May 10th, 2010


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Matterhorn a novel of the vietnam warAmazon Best Books of the Month, March 2010: Matterhorn is a marvel–a living, breathing book with Lieutenant Waino Mellas and the men of Bravo Company at its raw and battered heart. Karl Marlantes doesn’t introduce you to Vietnam in his brilliant war epic–he unceremoniously drops you into the jungle, disoriented and dripping with leeches, with only the newbie lieutenant as your guide.

Mellas is a bundle of anxiety and ambition, a college kid who never imagined being part of a “war that none of his friends thought was worth fighting,” who realized too late that “because of his desire to look good coming home from a war, he might never come home at all.” A highly decorated Vietnam veteran himself, Marlantes brings the horrors and heroism of war to life with the finesse of a seasoned writer, exposing not just the things they carry, but the fears they bury, the friends they lose, and the men they follow. Matterhorn is as much about the development of Mellas from boy to man, from the kind of man you fight beside to the man you fight for, as it is about the war itself. Through his untrained eyes, readers gain a new perspective on the ravages of war, the politics and bureaucracy of the military, and the peculiar beauty of brotherhood.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Our rating: ★★★★½


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  • Author: Karl Marlantes
  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; 1 edition (March 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080211928X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802119285


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Tagged as Fiction, Karl Marlantes, Military, Review, Vietnam, Vietnam War, War+ Categorized as By year, 2010, By rating, 4 Stars, By genre, Historical

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