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Matterhorn

by Karl Marlantes

The Vietnam war is history for many but this book smacks it down on the table in front of you and challenges you to face it. The bravery, camaraderie and ingenuity of these young Marines, operating in appalling conditions, is heartbreaking. One short tour of duty in the jungle, consolidating a hill called Matterhorn, costs lives, limbs and minds. Frightened lions led by incompetent donkeys. This book is a masterpiece.

Extract

The day ended in despair. The country had become a series of jagged limestone cliffs that weren’t shown on the map. It was impossible to get a bearing on anything in the dark forest. They couldn’t even find the sun through the clouds. Hunger made their stomachs hurt and drained their limbs of strength, but they knew the only way to reach food and safety was to keep moving.
The next day was the same. As their resistance lowered, the jungle rot got more severe. Pus erupted from the skin. Ringworm spread more rapidly, and several kids began to walk without trousers to avoid the painful irritation and chafing. That caused more cuts from the bushes and more exposure to leeches. … It was the third full day without food.

Parallels

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam by Bao Ninh
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
 

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