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The Junior Officers' Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars
 
 

The Junior Officers' Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars [Kindle Edition]

Patrick Hennessey
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)

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Review

Soldiers who can write are as rare as writers who can strip down a machinegun in 40 seconds, but Patrick Hennessey is one of the few (Sunday Times)

High-tempo, full-on . . . honest and revealing . . . a memoir brimming with vinegar and testosterone (Evening Standard)

The military memoir of the moment (Times)

A very fine book, a powerful dispatch from the front line ... what impresses is the sheer candour and immediacy (Spectator)

An extraordinary memoir . . . Hennessey has a reporter's eye for detail and a soldier's nose for bullshit (Guardian)

Outstanding . . . A classic of its kind (William Boyd, Sunday Herald, Books of the Year)

Harrowing and frequently funny . . . sparkles with wit, wisdom and boyish glee . . . His generation owns the war (Times)

Must rank as the most accomplished work of military witness to emerge from British war-fighting since 1945 (Independent)

Remarkable . . . conveys vividly what it's like to experience combat (Jeremy Paxman, Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year)

An engaging mix of war reporting, stream of consciousness and reflections on the nature of conflict in the twenty-first century (Caroline Moorehead, Spectator, Books of the Year)

All politicians need to read honest accounts of war - at no time more than now - and Patrick Hennessey's The Junior Officers' Reading Club is one of the very best (David Cameron, Observer, Books of the Year)

A vivid account of a rollercoaster tour of duty . . . testosterone-charged, expletive-splattered (Phil Jacobson, Daily Mail)

A compelling read . . . Hennessey's book ought to be read by all officers that have yet to experience combat . . . He has written an important portrait of contemporary warfare and the nature of battle - a portrait that can claim a line of descent from Sassoon's Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (Will Pike, British Army Review)

An honest acknowledgment of the darkness within us, of the unwelcome emotions that combat can bring about ... Smart and funny ... The Junior Officers' Reading Club is a humdinger (Jonathan Yardley Washington Post)

Review

'Hennessey has fashioned what must rank as the most accomplished work of military witness to emerge from British war-fighting since 1945 ... He may have shed a uniform but - surely - he cannot abandon the rare gift revealed in this extraordinary book.'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 4545 KB
  • Print Length: 335 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (25 Jun 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI95EK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #87,585 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By AK TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Patrick Hennessey reports of his time in the British Army, with tours of duty to Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Falklands before resigning. It starts with the Sandhurst experience, and then goes into each deployment, with the lion share being dedicated to Afghanistan, where the author's real fighting took place.

The initial training in Sandhurst is probably also the only episode, where the 'reading' element is really present, with the author ruminating on Dixon's On The Psychology Of Military Incompetence (Pimlico) (a book I would highly recommend) and how the training tends to always prepare the officers (and troops) for fighting the last war, not the current, or next one. While this section of the book is insightful, the author fails to translate how the training, which he felt was largely useless, transformed him into a competent fighter / officer, which he claims to have become as a result ('when the training kicked in') - On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society does a much better job here.

While the author's time in Bosnia seems to have been spent hankering for stories one could tell fawning ex-girlfriends (which did not really materialize), and Iraq was equally disappointing for the author for the lack of action, he finally seems to have gotten his fill of firefights in Afghanistan. This part of the book is fairly quick to read but not necessarily the best.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very readable but really quite irritating 20 July 2011
Format:Paperback
Have just finished this after a whizzing through it in about 5 days while on holiday. I have very mixed feelings. It's certainly very readable and fluently written and does provide some real insight into the workings of the army. There is also something very authentic about his kinetic descriptions of combat in the second half of the book. But, boy, did I not warm to Mr Hennessy.

I presume he set out for this to be a 'searingly honest' account of his experiences, but in many cases his honesty just served to reinforce every mild and (previously un-informed) prejudice I had about Guards officers. This privately-educated Oxbridge graduate talks about how amazingly 'diverse' the intake is at Sandhurst. He goes on to describe his role in looking after his men as akin to that of a primary school teacher and slags off the officers who have made it up through the ranks (as well as numerous other regiments and other parts of the armed forces). He's quite honest about wanting to look cool in his uniform and impress the ladies, thinks having his own orderly and hanging around in the mess is great and seems utterly (and depressingly) obsessed with creating video montages of his tours - as if none of it is real until edited down into some snappy clips with thumping background music which can be used to impress people. In fact there seems to be quite a lot about wanting to impress people in here - much talk of not being allowed to wear sunglasses.

I quite liked his critique of the pointlessness of much of the training he received at Sandhurst but after his endless moaning about wanting to see some action I was expecting some real insight into the horrors of combat. Instead there are repetitive descriptions of how much 'fun' it is shoot people and be involved in a battle all of which I found slightly chilling.

So worth a read but not great. I hope Mr H has since matured considerably.
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85 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A War classic up there with sniper one. 25 Jun 2009
By Pedros
Format:Hardcover
Firstly I was quite put off by the title. I thought it would be another boring account of politics within the military but I was proved very wrong. If you get the chance to listen to the readings from radio 4's book of the week (download from BBC I player) then you are in for a treat. This is compelling stuff and now having read the whole book I can honestly say it is up there with Dan Mills and Sniper One and Robert Mason's Chickenhawk.
The real ups and downs of a soldiers life in war at peace and when it is downright unfair. All here to digest. Written in plain speak making it easy to follow and digest unlike some more boring accounts by journalists or so called established writers this is written by a soldier for soldiers. If you buy one book this year then make it this one!!!
Make a donation to help the heroes aswell and make a good day great!!!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Raw, moving and very funny 28 July 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an extraordinary book written with an immediacy and an energy sometimes verging on incomprehensibility, but that merely adds to its force. The adolescent rawness, the visceral desire to fight, the sexual charge of battle, observed with ironic detachment and emotional sensitivity. The dichotomy between the sophisticated Oxbridge educated urbanite telling the story and the primitive rites in which he is involved make for something both touching and deeply moving. Comparison with Tolstoy's Sebastopol Sketches or Sajer's Forgotten Soldier are not out of place: this is war for the iPod generation, but the fundamentals remain unchanged. The absurdity, the frustration, the nostalgia, the excitement, the bravery, the brutality. And the perhaps unbridgeable chasm between those who were there, and the uncomprehending others, us, the people for whom the fighting is an abstract, as during the First World War London's social round continued undisturbed by the death of a generation across the Channel. Hennessey mentions in passing his own visits to a psychiatrist. One can only speculate how others, less insightful, less emotionally well equipped, might be coping with civilian life.
But if the book deals with the basics of the human condition, it is also incredibly, raucously, funny. Hennessey makes a couple of references to Evelyn Waugh: he has learnt well. He is also ready, touchingly, to acknowledge his own vulnerability: Gilly, the young guardsman, gravely injured but still anxious that his wounds should appear sufficiently heroic to impress the readers of FHM, has him close to tears.
This is a compelling picture of war beyond the post-heroic, the technological, told with astonishing honesty by a man who, in his 25 years, had been unfortunate, or fortunate, enough to experience greater extremes than most would encounter in several life times. One can only stand in awe.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
So war isn't the worst thing ever, who'd have known.
Published 7 days ago by Greg Law
1.0 out of 5 stars One out of five
Don't know what the fuss is about this book. Writer is totally self-absorbed and compares badly to other military/ afghan memoirs
Published 1 month ago by hugo
1.0 out of 5 stars More of the same afghan stories. This version is mediocre though.
This is an ok biography of a trip through Sandhurst and onto various operational tours with an infantry regiment. A good format that has been done umpteen times before. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Victor Hugo
3.0 out of 5 stars The paperback afterword: books
The afterword to this book was written to address something that had struck many other readers too - the relatively sparse references to the "readers' club" of the title. Read more
Published 2 months ago by John Frum
4.0 out of 5 stars The Junior Officers' Reading Club
I very much enjoyed this book and have passed my copy on to a sixth form student who has been offered a place at Sandhurst - to prepare him or put him off! Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jennifer Woodyard
5.0 out of 5 stars Has stayed with me
There are some appalling reviews for this book. I am not sure we were reading the same book; certainly we were not reading it the same way - the way I hope the writer meant us too. Read more
Published 4 months ago by MrsS
5.0 out of 5 stars I actually could not stop reading
This book is searingly honest in its recounting of the events a junior officekandak,s through from just prior to signing up to just after leaving. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Parsa
1.0 out of 5 stars Read critique on this
Bought it for a friend's birthday. I dare not print
what he said about it. Suffice to say it was never
read and a complete waste of my money !
Published 5 months ago by margaret cecilia garner
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
Patrick Hennessey brought out the realism of life in the Army, from the boredom of doing very little to the horrors of close combat in Afghanistan. Read more
Published 6 months ago by keith rogers
3.0 out of 5 stars NOT A HOLIDAY READ!
Poorly written, full of incomprehensible abbreviations but oddly compelling. Most of my book club members hated it but it does shed some light on Army life and the dreadful waste... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mikey
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