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The Junior Officers' Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars

by Patrick Hennessey

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3401275,187 (3.36)13
A revelatory first-hand account of a young enlistee's profound coming of age and how boys grow into men amid the frenetic, sometimes exhilarating violence, frequent boredom, and almost overwhelming responsibilities that frame a soldier's experience and the way we fight today.
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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
A British soldier recounts his time in military academy through a stint in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hm. I have mixed feelings about this one. At first I really didn't like Hennessey - he seemed arrogant and filled with admiration for his own cleverness - but then I was briefly sucked into his account of soldiering (the details of how the British train their troops was interesting), but then again I became annoyed that the book doesn't do what it says on the tin; he occasionally and very briefly mentions a book he was reading at the time some event happened, but there's no talk of an actual book club at all or even what he thought of the books he read. I was in it for the dynamics of a bunch of soldiers holding a regular book club in a war zone and how that would play out, and I didn't get that at all. In the end it just felt like a dude bragging about how well read he was and also what a cool soldier he turned out to be and isn't that a paradox? I'm such a cool paradox! Blech. But points for the possibly inadvertently interesting bits. *shrug* ( )
  electrascaife | May 25, 2022 |
This is one book that could have used a different editor. The text is too raw, even the edited parts feel a lot like an e-mail or journal entry, so incomplete and, a lot of the times, not really related one to the next. The über-long phrases used by the author, like two per paragraph, don't help either. And to boot the book didn't feel all that British either ... yes, a "biro" used here and there and some Worcester sauce to top it of but still not what I was looking for.

All that said the passages about his last couple of months in Sangin are probably the best war writing I've ever read, timeless. ( )
1 vote emed0s | Aug 18, 2013 |
Another book on men enjoying war and not justifying it politically or morally. Not in the same class as Junger's War, but the same sentiments: give a boy a gun and he and his friends will have fun until tea-time, give a man a gun and real live targets to shoot at and he's in heaven, or might be soon. ( )
  Petra.Xs | Apr 2, 2013 |
Nunca me terminó de enganchar, no se si termina siendo una joda o un posición del autor para evitar asumir el error de la guerra. de club de lectores ni un f*** libro, una referencia al Quijote por ahí, y otra mas dispersa. Creo que no lo entendí o es malo nomás.- ( )
  gneoflavio | Oct 4, 2011 |
I should not have read this book
I certainly should not be reviewing this book

I firmly believe that British troops should not have been sent to Iraq and certainly should not be in Afghanistan. Messrs Bush and Blair and their shamefully dishonest governments have much to answer for. They are responsible for giving Patrick Hennessey and his ilk the licence to play out their violent video fantasy's for real in far away foreign countries.

This book is the memoirs of a junior British officer; a platoon leader in Iraq and Afghanistan. He describes his training at Sandhurst which is all in his words "marching , ironing and shouting". and which drives the recruits to the limits of their physical capabilities. His first tour of duty is in Baghdad, where he is disappointed that he has not fired a gun in anger, however his platoon receives the wonderful news that they are being sent to Afghanistan. A real chance to kick ass.

This book celebrates the glory and excitement of modern day warfare. The adrenaline rush of being able to go to foreign countries and kill as many of the inhabitants as they can. At times it reads like a glorified video game. Here is Hennessey riding in a snatch vehicle in Baghdad itching to shoot somebody:

breathing calm and regulated now, finger almost indecently flirting with the safety catch.... an incredible and unplaceable feeling of responsibility, sinister and strangely ecstatic, bewildering calm and almost elation to have this stranger perfectly lined up, a fraction of a second-two silent fractional movements and one 5.56 tracer round away from me and eternity and slowly from under his robe he takes out another bottle of coke and takes a swig

Hennessey describes the thrill of battle like this:

try and piece together what it is about the contact battle that ramps the heartbeat up so high and pumps adrenaline and euphoria through the veins in such a heady rapid mix....and wonder what compares: the winning goal scoring punch, the first kiss, the triumphant knicker peeling moment? Nowhere else sells bliss like this, surely?

Hennessey dreams about getting medals to show:

to shout from the rafters that what we had done was not wrong, not bad, but glorious and heroic, and we wern't sick to feel that it had all been such fucking good fun

Hennessey's platoon were responsible for killing nearly 200 Taliban. There was no respect for the dead and it was just bad luck if one of their own took a hit. It was all in the game. Modern weaponry and its effects is described in loving detail. The Afghani people might as well be from a different planet.

The title of the book is misleading there are two pages of the 300 devoted to the reading club. More space is given to the delights of TV programs like "24" and "Greys Anatomy". Hennessey uses quite a few cliches but on the whole his writing is tolerably good. ( )
8 vote baswood | Apr 4, 2011 |
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A revelatory first-hand account of a young enlistee's profound coming of age and how boys grow into men amid the frenetic, sometimes exhilarating violence, frequent boredom, and almost overwhelming responsibilities that frame a soldier's experience and the way we fight today.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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