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My kingdom for a ghostwriter. An editor would be nice too
on 5 February 2013
I really expected great things of this book, and really wanted to like it. A former Grenadier RSM writing about his own regiment's tour in Helmand, uniformly glowing reviews on here... Sadly, this wasn't the book I was expecting.
War is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting, with complex moral and ethical dilemmas mixed with a difficult supply chain in an unfamiliar and often physically unbearable environment and leaves huge amounts of room for detailed evaluation. This book fails to supply this. It very much tows the party line, so to speak. It might mention difficulties with the ANA troops, or with equipment, but these are rarely explored, being simply brushed aside with a throwaway phrase such as, "but they put on a good show and got on with it". The author is understandably proud of his regiment, but this leads to him holding his subjects in awe. Critique does not exist in this book.
It's poorly written as well. I'm always impressed when non-professional authors are brave enough not to employ a ghostwriter, but a professional would have been very useful here; the prose does not evoke the tension of combat, whilst genuinely funny anecdotes are communicated in a very dull fashion. It often sounds like he has simply copied out officer reports following missions, and almost admits to this in his acknowledgements section. Very few direct quotes from troops and very few reflections on their feelings at the time can make events feel almost robotic. Shoddy editing does not help matters - it's grammatically poor at times, with the occasional repeated sentence (not for dramatic effect, I might add).
If you are looking for a dull recounting of the missions carried out by the Grenadier Guards in their 2007 tour of Helmand province, this is the book for you, although more maps and illustrations would have been useful when explaining battle plans. If you are looking for an in-depth examination of the complexity of modern war or a critical look at the pressures facing coalition troops in Afghanistan at present, go and buy a better book.