Finished February 8
Matterhorn: a novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes
This novel was written over many years, with the author drawing from his own Vietnam War experiences in the inspiration. This shows in the writing.
Matterhorn tells the story of a young lieutenant, Waino Mellas, a man who, unlike many of his fellow college grads, takes his commitment to the reserves seriously and didn't try to get out of his service. As the book begins, Mellas sees his time in the service as something that can be useful to him later, but he is nervous about being involved in real action and the responsibility of of being in charge of other men.
As the action of his unit, Bravo Company, First Battalion of the Twenty-Fourth Regiment of the Fifth Marine Division is played out over the course of a few months, Mellas find himself changed irrevocably. We see his feelings, decision processes, and thoughts as he moves through his time around the hill near the front that is known here as Matterhorn. But it isn't only his story. We also see into the minds of some of the other men, other young men in the same Battalion. We see the fear, the desperation, and the anger. We see the racial struggle that was also going on during this time and how it influenced relationships between the men.
We also see the decisions made higher up, the decisions that affect these men's lives. Good decisions and bad decisions. Decisions made for good reasons and for bad ones.
The fighting scenes are graphic, but not in a way that feels celebratory like some war books. We get a glimpse into the real feelings of the men involved, the quick decisions that must be made, and the differences between the action on the ground and how it is viewed even from a short distance away.
We also see the impact of waiting, of moving through this difficult landscape. The brotherhood of the marines is shown in how they handle their dead and injured, how they fight together.
The writing is amazing and this book gave me a real sense of the immediacy of war from inside.