I have finally finished reading “The Junior Officers’ Reading Club” by Patrick Hennessey, after having started it last year (October 21st 2010, as i found that my bookmark in it was my train ticket for the day i bought it!).
I’m not sure why it took me so long to read it, at first it was just one book i bought in Waterstones’ 3 for 2 offer and started reading on my commute home from university that evening, and read bits of it every journey from uni for a few weeks and then stopped. Maybe because i got too tired on an evening to read with the attention it needed, or maybe because the pain associated with a link i once had to the Forces became too much to bear ( i was in a relationship with an RAF man who left the Forces and then left me about two months before i started reading this).
Anyway, i can’t say i enjoyed reading this book, but it was very educational about just what members of the Forces go through while training and then out on tour in warzones. It describes everything as being horrific, exhilarating, boring, farcical and everything else in between. Just reading about the sheer amount of emotions soldiers go through makes you realise how petty your own are.
The sheer amount of content is staggering, the description doesn’t hold anything back, the prose just flows although is a little confusing and hectic at times as the narrator gets excited. It is very intense but you are drawn into the action and the descriptions have you picturing the scene in your head: the sounds, the sights, and the smells. Not only do we get the strange excitement and bloody horror of the battlefield, we also get the sense of boredom and jealousy during the quiet periods where the soldier is dying to get back into the fight and envious of those who have already fought and proved themselves and have their own battle stories and battle scars.
It seems bad enough to go through such terrible and tough fighting and living conditions in the warzones, but to come back home in be forced to live a civilian life with people who don’t understand what you went through seems unbearable. You don’t realise how when a soldier is distant and troubled back at home, he can’t help it. One poignant quote which will stay with me is:
“They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm”.
This book is a great insight into the mind of a soldier and although it may be difficult for some people to read, i felt it was worth spending the last year trying to read it, even if it was hard for me at times. It makes you realise how grateful you should be to the Forces who work harder than you ever will in your life.
I can’t really give it a mark out of 10 as a memoir, but i guess it would be 10 out of 10 just because its one of those books which you won’t forget in a hurry. I definitely recommend it.