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Fiction of the Forgotten War -- Korea

Historical Fiction

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Edited: Sep 30, 2017, 1:36pm Top

Anyone and everyone can find enough good, even great, books about The War to End All War and the Greatest Generation's War. But finding fiction about the Police Action of the 50s is much harder. But since the DPRK is once again in the forefront of our consciousness due to Twitter-Thumbs-in-Chief, maybe we should pay attention to the lessons of the past.

While straight up nonfiction history books provide the facts of history, facts seldom make the impression on our psyche that they should. It's people and their stories that best implant the facts that count, especially in war. War isn't really a subject of dates, battlefields, materiel, and commanders. War is really about individual human beings and the impact state sanctified and glorified violence has on them, both fighter and non-combatant together.

I don't know of many novels about the Korean War -- less than a handful. In fact, only two -- one that I've read, War Trash by Ha Jin and one that I haven't yet read but own, The Coldest Night by Robert Olmstead. So, I'm soliciting the community for discussion and recs on this topic.

Edited: Sep 30, 2017, 1:39pm Top

>1 Limelite: First of all, I would say that Rocket Man is more at fault and I'm glad that Trump is willing to stand up to him. Political statements of this type should not be brought into reading books about Korea because there are always two sides to the political issue and we don't need those arguments here.

Sep 30, 2017, 2:19pm Top

>2 EadieB: Ah, but history is always going to be political to some degree. There's no such thing as a narrative about history -- whether fictional or nonfictional -- that isn't viewed at least a little bit through some political lens or another, however much the author may try to avoid bias. You may not agree with the original poster's politics, but the topic is so polarized that I don't really see how we can completely avoid politics even when just discussing book recommendations.

I agree that focusing too much on the present situation is likely to derail the thread, however, and I would hate to see this degenerate into mutual name-calling rather than civilized dialogue. I'm afraid I can't add any suggestions myself, but I am interested to see what other historical fiction fans come up with.

Oct 2, 2017, 9:13am Top

I liked The Bridges at Toko-Ri by James Michener.

Oct 2, 2017, 9:32am Top

Lark & Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips has the Korean War as a large portion, looking back.

Oct 2, 2017, 9:15pm Top

>4 MarthaJeanne: Checked the link but too many of the books on the list either a) are not about the Korean War at all, or b) are about other subjects entirely and just mention the Korean War in passing, or c) aren't even fiction.

Maybe the filtering or tagging s/w is buggy?

However, I did check my owned books against the list and discovered I have another novel about the Korean War, Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon, which I haven't yet read.

And I recalled a truly memorable novel that I read but don't own about the fall-out from the Korean War on an African-Amerian married couple living in San Francisco when the husband's white KW buddy shows up on their doorstep. The novel is the outstanding The Story of a Marriage: A Novel by Andrew Sean Greer. Highly recommend it. Greer seems to be one of those authors who never repeats himself -- definitely not a one-trick pony!

>5 Cecrow: I've seen the movie "Toko-Ri" (years ago) but had no idea that it was also a novel by Michener. Was William Holden in it? And I see that he also wrote Sayonara, which I thought was a post-WWII novel of the American occupation of Japan. As a movie, I didn't like it at all.

Oct 6, 2017, 11:52am Top

Probably not what you have in mind, but I'm surprised nobody's mentioned M*A*S*H by Richard Hooker.

Oct 6, 2017, 12:50pm Top

>8 tealadytoo: No. It's appropriate. I didn't mention it because I haven't read it, nor do I own it. In fact, I mostly just think of it as a TV series that, while set in Korea during the war, seemed too much a comedy of personalities in the M*A*S*H unit and the war was too far offstage except in the OR tent.

What is it like as a novel?

Edited: Oct 6, 2017, 1:12pm Top

>9 Limelite: It's a fairly comic novel, with the war more of a backdrop. However, it is authentic in that the author was a army doctor in Korea in a MASH unit and it is primarily based on his own experiences. That's why I thought it was probably not what you had in mind, since it really doesn't focus on the war itself.

Oct 6, 2017, 6:35pm Top

>10 tealadytoo: TCM is at this moment airing "Battle Circus," about a M*A*S*H unit in '53 Korea, starring Humphrey Bogart and June Allyson.

Oct 28, 2017, 12:42pm Top

The two novels about the Korean War that I can find in my own library are:

The Four Deuces: a Korean War Story by C. S. Crawford (which seems to be a fictionalized memoir)
Gresham's War by William Crawford

Interesting coincidence about the last names. I haven't read either one yet.

Nov 2, 2017, 12:12am Top

>12 rocketjk: Hope you'll read one or both soon and come back to tell us your impressions.

Does anyone know a Korean War veteran. . .if so, I'd be interested in hearing from you about their experiences. I feel their service and sacrifice have been overlooked in our modern history. And history may be about to repeat itself if we can't get the current Occupant in the WH to put down his phone. It could be instructive to be reminded of the lessons from 65 or so years ago.

Apr 26, 2:45pm Top

The Hunters by James Salter is about F-86 Sabre pilots in combat in Korea. Salter is a combat vet of the Korean war, as well as an amazing writer.

May 18, 3:18pm Top

I don't know a KW veteran personally, but some years ago I attended a Rotary Club meeting with my WWII-vet father. The speaker, a local member, was in one of the earliest waves of soldiers to go into Korea, and he gave us a summary of his unit's experiences. What stood out to me from his talk was that the supplies and even the uniforms, boots, etc. provided to those early units were woefully inadequate. I have not done any background research on that but it's one angle to check into.

Group: Historical Fiction

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