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4.1 out of 5 stars
Ordinary Heroes
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
I've lost count of the number of critically acclaimed so-called 'page-turners'which have left me cold. You've probably read a few despite yourself: The kind of thriller which has sketchily-drawn photofit characters, a tortuous plotline and a kind of moralistic sheen sprayed over it to justify the meagre story. 'Ordinary Heroes', however, is not that kind of book.
I was aware of Scott Turow's abilities as a storyteller, but in his latest novel he has raised his game to produce an extraordinary book- the kind of satisfying read which makes you feel you have truly engaged with the characters, rather than having been a mere spectator. In short this is that rare breed: a genuinely literary novel which still manages to retain the best attributes of more populist fiction. The story poses some of the more intractable questions about what motivates the individual- love, duty, self-interest- and in the context of a family history, arrives at surprising, if ultimately satisfying, answers.
Stewart Dubinsky, a journalist, researches the life of his recently deceased father, David Dubin. He discovers that David was attached to the Judge Advocate General's Department of the US Military during World war II, dealing with Court Martials in the newly freed France and Germany. Against the background of the Battle of the Bulge and the onward push of Allied forces into Germany, David Dubin is sent on a 'Heart of Darkness'style mission to track down a renegade US Officer, Major Robert Martin. Although ostensibly working for the OSS, Martin's motives and loyalties are called into question. He and his nemesis, General Teedle (Dubin's commanding officer, and the source of the mission)crop up again and again in a game of cat and mouse throughout the novel.
In a more literary sense, 'cat and mouse' (or perhaps snakes and ladders?)describes Stewart Dubinsky's search for the truth about his father. He discovers that his father has been court martialled,then mysteriously cleared. Through the oral testimony of his father's now 96 year old court martial attorney Bear Leach, the written narrative of David Dubin, and the inquiries and conclusions of Stewart Dubinsky, we see the 'truth' about his father's history pieced together in front of us, complete with all the motivations and justifications of the characters involved. The juxtaposition of these various sources is a clever chess game with our expectations on Turow's part, yet the story is always crystal clear.
David Dubin's involvement with Gita Lodz, initially Robert Martin's 'companion' (though the edges are blurred as to what this actually meant)forces him to question his own assumptions about relations between men and women, and challenges the foundation of his duty as a soldier. Thrown by chance into active combat- not the expected route for an Army Lawyer- and working with a black Sergeant, Gideon Bidwell who has passed for white and hence is operational (not in the support role for which he otherwise might have been destined)similarly leads Dubin to challenge, in his own mind the whole ratinale behind war. The Legal process may be black and white, but what happens when the world is itself grey?
Stewart's examination of his father's written account allows him to see the true emotional being behind his hitherto distant parent. Indeed, the narrative makes this engagement with his father's story unfold organically until having occasionally re-written or re-shaped passages fromn his father's account for publication "I frequently cannot remember whose lines are whose when I turn the pages".
This is a novel set firmly within an historical context, but the research is worn lightly. The landscapes and people are vividly drawn, and the characters are fully rounded. The atmosphere of the time is accurate but by no means academic.
If you enjoy a fluidly written and engaging novel which rewards you not with cheap thrills but an intelligent and thought-provoking storyline, then buy and consume this book at once.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 10 October 2006
Turow has written another legal thriller here, but one with a difference, as the novel takes the form of a tale within a tale and has mainly a wartime setting.

Following the death of his father, Stewart Dubinsky discovers the parent he knew as a staid, respectable lawyer had faced a court-martial in the Second World War. His father's manuscript account of the events leading to this forms the bulk of the novel.

The book contains some powerful writing about the experience of war and its impact on ordinary men. Certainly it is a cut above the usual derring-do of many war adventures. There is also a sort of love story, but one in which the development of romance is shaped by the war in which it blooms.

Turow has fashioned a thoughtful novel about the search for identity and the quest for truth. The father, David Dubin, struggles to understand his own self, and the true intentions of others during the maelstrom of battle. This is followed by the son's quest to understand his father more fully. Along the way, Stewart Dubinsky (whose surname has reverted to its original form) discovers more than he expected about his family and true heritage.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 16 December 2006
I have been let down by so many books about or set in World War Two BUT this is NOT one of them. Its a very powerful portrayal of Americans at war seen through the eyes of a lawyer pursuing an OSS agent and ending up in combat during the Battle of the Bulge.

Its very well written and very detailed and despite what you might think after reading the above very believable and realistic. It reminded me a bit of the great book and TV series Band of Brothers. If you liked that you will like this.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 1 September 2006
Although you could see the punchline a long way before the main character does, I felt this took Turow a long way back towards the brilliant 'early' novels he produced. Highly enjoyable, a real pageturner for many different reasons, can see the screenplay being written as we speak. A 'Saving Private Ryan' with emotion.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 7 September 2012
When Stewart Dubinsky finds out that his recently deceased father had been subjected to a court martial at the conclusion of WW2, he cannot believe what he is hearing. This is a history that has never been spoken about. His mother, when asked, refuses to be drawn and doesn't want the history to be explored.

Stewart, however, finds that he needs to know the details of the crime that his father committed. His father's solicitor, Bear Leach, is still alive and still has some papers from the time in his possession - Stewart embarks on a journey of discovery, which takes the reader into the action at the front in France in 1944/45.

Reading the acknowledgements at the back, it is interesting to learn that many of the smaller details (for instance, a vivid description of a parachute drop) were the stories of Turow's own father. But that is as far as the autobiographical influence goes.

Others have praised this novel highly. I feel less enthusiastic, to me it is a slightly above average novel of the second world war, but not a brilliant one. It's very readable and there are a couple of fantastic characterisations - Major Teedle, for instance, a gruff man in the field, yet much given to theological philosophy. However, I never really felt that the narrator, Stewart, 'belonged' to the story and this. for me, dragged the novel down.

If I was looking for a place on my bookshelf for this book, I would put it alongside A Whispered Name: 3 (The Father Anselm Novels) by William Brodrick and Restless by William Boyd. Both have similar WW2 backdrops and have the mystery/thriller slant that this book has and to which this book compares very favourably.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 7 November 2006
As narratives go, this had an eloquence all of it's own. The story follows a decent man through the appalling winter of 1944 in France, and the reader is left in no doubt of the tragedy and futility of war. I found is a very powerful book, not in a 'gung-ho here comes the cavalry way', but in a thoughful, clear and compassionate way. It has stayed with me long after I finished it. I will definitely look for other books Scott Turow has written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 June 2009
I bought this book ages ago, thinking that it would make a good holiday read. Consequently, I took it with me on a number of trips but somehow never got round to reading it. It was a dog-eared veteran by the time it came to the top of the pile. I should have read it sooner- it would certainly have improved last year's rainy fortnight in the West Country. After a slightly slow start (I was, bizarrely, irritated by the typeface...until I realised that it was there to differentiate between the present and the past) I was soon drawn in to the life of David Dubin and his interractions with the other principal characters in the book. I dont want to give the game away, but suffice it to say that there are plenty of emotionally charged moments and some visceral descriptions of the grim realities of war. This is an unusual book, war seen through the eyes of an army prosecuting lawyer, but it hits the mark- passion, adventure, emotion and personal discovery. Not a literary great, maybe, but a really entertaining read. This book will not let you down.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is a tale set within WW2 and is a blend of mystery, thriller, emotion and love story.
Not my normal type of reading material but this is deep and thoughtful stuff that takes it's title to demonstrate how war can impact on the individual.
This unravels through a journal, read by the son of a recently deceased father who discovers things about his father, his war record and his family through the journal. His father was tasked to arrest an enigmatic war hero and in the end is court-martialed for letting him go or killing him (we learn which and why towards the end of the book). The journal explains his father's journey of self discovery, love, leadership and ordinary heroism. If I have made it sound heavy, it isn't, this is a page turner but one of quality and depth and will stay with you for quite a while after the final page.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 October 2006
After a bit of an effort to immerse myself into the novel, I found myself gripped by the storyline and quality of writing.

Turow has made a huge effort to research his subject, and he escapes the inclination to slip into sloppy and false prose by adding detail without over-doing matters and genuinely offering realism to his work.

I have never read his work before, and would certainly reccommend it.
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on 18 July 2011
ORDINARY HEROES is a queer mix of war, courtrooms and mystery. The novel is framed by the story of Stewart Dubinsky, a modern day journalist, who begins to research his father after his death. He discovers that his father, who is the protagonist for most of the novel, was a Lawyer with the US Army in Europe. His father was called upon to track down an OSS (the predecessor to the CIA) Major who is going renegade (shades of Kurtz). Whilst doing so he meets the agent's girlfriend, a Polish Jew, and falls in love with her.

Throughout the story examines themes of family, race, the Holocaust (the twist ending is pretty predictable) and war. Turow is surprisingly good in his war scenes, largely set against the backdrop of the Battle of the Bulge, demonstrating good research. The writing is good, the history deftly handled and the characters are all interesting. However the sheer familiarity of the plot and the twist ending tells against this book. Nonetheless this is an engaging novel, far superior to the usual fare.
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