Matterhorn
Karl Marlantes
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Buy *Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War* by Karl Marlantes online

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War
Karl Marlantes
Grove Press
Paperback
640 pages
May 2011
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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The Vietnam novel is an oft-trod street. It has been approached from all directions--from the eyes of the sniper, the grunts in the bush, and the pilots in the sky--and seemingly there is no new wrinkle to be had. But Marlantes manages to find a new way in. His saga describes the terror and sacrifice of a solder on the frontline waging a war against an unseen enemy--one out there in the distance of the jungle and another one inside his head. The author captures an immediacy and terrible urgency that other writers have barely touched on.

A Rhodes Scholar studying at Oxford in 1967, Marlantes felt a crushing need to honor his country and joined the Marines. The book was written in his down time and would take over 30 years to complete. He writes about the lives of Second Lieutenant Waine Mellas, company commander Fitch, executive officer Hawker and fellow platoon leaders Goodwin and Kendall. They are all soldiers fighting the same war but in very different ways. The author loves his characters and hopes they will be strong and decisive, but war does mean things to men.

Here is an example.

They pulled ponchos off the dead marines' belts, which were still attached to their pulped torsos, to provide body sacks. They had no idea if the correct body parts would make it home to the correct wives or parents. The best they could do was put together on head, two arms, and two legs. Helping to haul the dead up to the edge of the little LZ, Mellas noticed kids licking their ponchos. His own tongue felt thick and cottony. He looked down to see if any moisture had collected on the ponchos of the dead he was hauling, but quickly repressed the impulse. He reached the pile and dropped the body parts with the rest. Mellas wondered if it had eventually been like this in the concentration camps. Had they reached the point where horror had no force? He hurried back to his hole and licked his own poncho, tasting the rubber, getting no satisfaction.
Over the course of the three decades it took Karl Marlantes to write Matterhorn, he turned into a superb writer. His sense of detail is remarkable and with the eyes of a solder writing about his own life, he misses nothing. You may have read other books on the war in Vietnam but this trumps them all.



Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Steven Rosen, 2014

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