The Things They Carried

First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. They were not love letters, but Lieutenant Cross was hoping, so he kept them folded in plastic at the bottom of his rucksack.

I loved The Things They Carried. It was an excellent war novel about Vietnam, one that I had heard of before, but never tried. It didn’t sound that interesting, but I wish I had read it sooner. They carried malaria tablets, love letters, 28-pound mine detectors, dope, illustrated bibles, each other. And if they made it home alive, they carried unrelenting images of a nightmarish war that history is only beginning to absorb. Since its first publication, The Things They Carried has become an unparalleled Vietnam testament, a classic work of American literature, and a profound study of men at war that illuminates the capacity, and the limits, of the human heart and soul.”

In its format, The Things They Carried is somewhat similar to The Buddha in the Attic. It tries to speak of universalities (that’s not a word, is it?), and in general terms. Particularly the first chapter, documenting the things the soldiers carried. But it also talks about specific soldiers, and experiences that befall them, or strange stories that they hear, which may or may not be true. 

The book is narrated from Tom O’Brien’s point of view; I gather he fought in the war. However, I’m not sure how much of the book is actually “nonfiction”, though obviously, everything is drawn from his experiences. However, for example, was Jimmy Cross really someone he fought with? I’m not sure. 

Whether they’re true or not, these anecdotes are fascinating, and revealing. This is a book to be reread; I don’t think you can fully absorb any of it without reading it over again. It’s not exactly the lightest of reading; The Things They Carried is a really brutal book. But when one writes about war, one has to be brutal, right? 

There’s plenty to say about this book, but I don’t really want to say it. You know what? Just try it if it sounds interesting.

Read The Things They Carried:

  • if you like a mix between historical fiction and memoir
  • if you are interested in books set during the Vietnam war
  • if you like war stories

246 pages.

 
Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!
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