The best book of the year

My Cataloger’s Stamp of Approval for the best book of the year goes to:

Marlantes, Karl. Matterhorn: a novel of the Vietnam War. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press; Berkeley, Calif.: El León Literary Arts, 2010. (Publisher’s description)

I’ve read over 30 works of literature on the Vietnam War, and this one stands out for how tactile it is.  Many books about Vietnam describe the colors of the triple canopy jungle, where even the sunlight appears green.  But none have come this close to expressing the way everything feels – from the ground underfoot to the razor-sharp elephant grass. Even the smells are evoked in a more immediate way than in other works.  The characters are well-developed, especially the main character, Waino Mellas.  He’s just a guy, and the reader can be rather indifferent towards him, since Marlantes doesn’t make him into a hero.  It’s this sort of complexity that makes this novel stand out, too.

I can’t do this book justice, in trying to describe why it is so outstanding.  I’ll just say this: Atlantic Monthly Press published this novel after it already had a small publishing run with El León Literary Arts.  The Atlantic Monthly Press edition is about 40 pages shorter.  This book is so damn good that, when I finished reading it, I got a copy of the El León Literary Arts edition, so when I read it next, I can read those other 40 pages.  Marlantes is an amazing writer, and I hope we don’t have to wait another 30 years for his next book.

Perhaps the other readers who have gotten over being dumbstruck by this book will have more helpful reviews for your consideration; you can read some here or here.


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