Currently reading

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The Human Body

The Human Body - Paolo Giordano I got a copy of this from Penguin's First to Read program.

I had high hopes for this novel, but it fell a little short of what I was looking for. Certainly it is an exploration of the experiences of the members of an Italian company in Afghanistan. And war sucks. He succeeds in making the men seem human, real, but most of them were not filled in enough to be relate-able. Egitto is the biggest exception, but even with him, his back story is about his sister -- he seems oddly removed from it. Rene might be another exception, but again, he doesn't seem as if he really knows himself at all, so it's hard to get to know him. The other characters are not admirable. And central crisis, the experience "in the valley" that screwed them up so bad, was a very common experience in the war. Maybe that was the point. But they didn't go through anything so extraordinary in the context of war.

Beyond the characters, this book has a couple dubious messages. One is that jackass bullies make the best soldiers -- they are the ones that shoot and survive (yep, I'm talking about Cerdeno -- isn't that what he teaches us?). And the other: all the bad stuff in war can be traced to the coldness and ineptitude of the females that we let into the military. Yes, it's all the women's fault. There's only two of them: one orders them into the mess, and the other causes all the trouble because she can't do anything right. One woman in a company of men, and she's the biggest screw-up. Of course. Obviously everything is her fault.

I guess it was this aspect of the plot that made me roll my eyes at the book, that robbed me of the empathy I would have otherwise felt for the characters here. Maybe it's just one of those things that will work better for male readers. Especially male readers who don't think women should be in the military anyway.

In the end: was it well written? Yes, in the sense of the language and the descriptions. But I had trouble getting into it emotionally.