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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 19 September 2001
Principally writing this in response to an earlier review which criticises the book for being firstly too pro-war and secondly being too lightweight.
I disagree on both counts.
As to the first, the book is not pro-war, but rather pro-soldier: it is the courage, fortitude and skill of the soldiers rather than individual wars or the notion of war which attract Hastings' praise.
As to the second, the book is autobiography, not military or political history. Therefore the charge that it is lightweight is simply misconceived. In any event, as an introduction to various conflicts the book is highly informative- particularly those chapters dealing with the Israeli/Arab wars.
All in all, a very good read.
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on 23 August 2000
This book is a very enjoyable book detailing the career of a great reporter. The honest admission by the author of his own cowardice and failure in the paratroop regiment is all the more striking when set alongside his reporting from some of the most dangerous locations of the last 30 years. Max Hastings doesn't attempt to hide his arrogance, vanity or ruthless pursuit of the front page, yet his honesty is refreshing in a genre in which 99% of works published are essays in self justification. The book is not a history book, if it sounds "jingoistic" in the chapters covering the Falklands it must be remembered that as a part of the task force he was subject to the emotions of taking part in a military campaign, it would be a very special man who could remain detached from national sentiment when part of a task force from their home country. The authors book about that war with Simon Jenkins is recognised as a very balanced and even account of the war which is not at all partisan or jingoistic in it's views. Hastings has some very pertinent views on the role of the war reporter, ultimately, while he may not paint a portrait of a likeable personality at times, it is a story of a great writer and journalist.
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on 10 July 2003
Max Hastings portrays himself in this book as self-deprecating and candid.
In a sense he is when writing, but I couldn't help feeling there was an element of charade here. Hastings describes how he wasn't up to much as a soldier doing national service. But he gives no explanation of how he managed to cover the race riots in America as his first journalistic assignment. The most likely explanation is that he was helped by his parents' connections, but he appears not even to acknowledge this or explain his good fortune.
Also, you can't help noticing the point at which he contemplates marooning a friend and fellow reporter, so he can be first with the story.
He often says what he did, but hides how he managed to do it. For example, just how did he become friendly with SAS commander Michael Rose in the Falklands? He doesn't say. Again, you wonder if he is candid when it suits him, but hides his ruthless streak.
Such things make it harder to like the author, and as such make it harder to enjoy what is otherwise an excellent book.
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on 21 July 2013
I'm a great Max Hastings fan, and this book, for me, would be my summer beach read. Light, easy, funny reading.
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on 30 May 2001
Max Hastings provides us with a book that moves between biography and comment on the times he has been at the front end of conflicts as a reporter. In an account he openly admits to his own personal failings whilst conveying (in a non-heroic fashion) his triumphs as he reports from various war zones. At times the book shows his adventurous nature in chasing the "scoop" but never at the expense of those who fought in the various battles. He is quick to understand the participants and tries to convey their will and mentality to be in the wars. Hastings may have been perceived as being arrogant but often this appears tingled with jealously for a man who reported from the front line of many of the late 20th Century wars. Hastings achieved much in an era without mobile communications, he was clearly a talent individual who used every resource available to tell the story to the public. A worthwhile and absorbing read.
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on 11 August 2001
Hastings, despite his continual protestations of cowardice displays no little courage and sensetivity when handling difficult situations. His candid self assessment is refreshing and he attempts to give a balanced account of war as he has experienced it. His clear respect for many of the men and women he encountered and his ability to smile at his, and their frailties is one of the most charming aspects of this book. As well as providing us with a timely reminder of the men and women who bring us our daily quota of headlines this is an entertaining read full of character and characters, well worth the effort.
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on 14 January 2015
Hastings never disappoints. Well researched and written
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on 30 June 2014
Excellent service , good price , very interesting book
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on 17 May 2000
Although this is a subject that interests me, I just found this book too pro-war. As much as I think it is interesting to read about wars, Max Hastings is just too enthused about them for my taste. The section on the Falklands was so jingoistic that it was nauseating. I hold very opposing views. I have enjoyed other works in the genre by authors such as James Fenton and Ryszard Kapucinski (spelling?), but I found them deeper, and perhaps just a little more objective, or perhaps I empathise with their perspectives much more so than with that which Max Hastings presents.
I also wonder why Hastings chooses to single out John Pilger for personal snipes on several occasions - someone whose work I have enormous respect for. It doesn't do him any credit. If anything it begs a comparison of the two authors work, and where Pilger's is fairly dry, one can't help but respect the man for the depth of his research and how he cuts through the surface to get to the real issues. By contrast Max Hastings caters to the masses and seems to have done so throughout his career - sensationalism sells newspapers - and books too obviously. It is true that Max Hastings has had some interesting experiences, and is probably a competent journalist, but on the whole this book isn't any deeper than his tale of the experiences and that makes it a very light read indeed. I read Pilger's 'Hidden agendas' shortly afterwards and I would recommend that if you read Hastings, then balance it with a bit of Pilger. Hastings has gone so far out of his way to sneer at Pilger, or perhaps he is just being defensive, that you owe it to yourself to make up your own mind.
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