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Sunday, 11 March 2012

Guest Review: Battle Fatigue by Mark Kurlansky

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: 7 Nov 2011

Synopsis from Goodreads

Growing up in the years following World War II, Joel Bloom and his friends dreamed of either fighting in the military or leading the Dodgers to the World Series. But when Joel turns eighteen, the Vietnam War is in full swing, and the sides of war he learned about as a child are not nearly as clear. Old enough to be drafted, Joel loves his country but knows he cannot fight in an unjust war. After trying and failing to be a Conscientious Objector, he must decide whether to serve in Vietnam or leave for Canada-a decision that would help him avoid the violence of war but force him to leave behind those he loves and turn his back on everything he was brought up to believe. In an insightful and compelling novel from bestselling nonfiction writer Mark Kurlansky comes an exploration of one teen's struggle to understand himself amid the harsh realities of life during wartime.


“I know that because I am a boy I will go to war. I don’t know who I will fight. It will come probably when I turn 18. It’s just what happens.”

This is the story of Joel Bloom’s life and everything that leads up to the Vietnam War, his War as he calls it. Joel has always grown up with war in the background as his Dad fought in World War 2 although he never talks about it and his Uncle is clearly traumatised by what he saw. Joel and his friends “play” war all the time with the artefacts that their dad’s have bought back and none of them want to be the Germans! But it is also a story about baseball. We follow Joel’s obsession with the Dodgers and the World Series. It also follows Joel as he tries to decide whether he will fight for his country or become a draft dodger and therefore let his whole family down.

I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. With Joel as the narrator to his own story it really brings you into that time in America. You get to see everything through his eyes as he grows into the man who has the biggest decision to make. He sees what war has done to his family and although he knows that nearly every boy in his town will go to war he doesn’t think he will be able to go through with it when it comes to his time. You feel his struggle as he just doesn’t believe in the Vietnam War and wonders why he has to sacrifice himself. But this isn’t just about war it is also about baseball and that is where I thought I would struggle as I know nothing about it at all. However, I got totally immersed into Joel’s obsession and would look forward to those passages.

I kept forgetting that this was a YA book as it was written as if it was an adult book and that is not in any way a put down. A thoroughly enjoyable book that I would highly recommend.

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