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Watching War Films With My Dad Hardcover – 24 Oct 2013
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"Infectious and endearing. " (Paperback book of the month, Choice magazine)
Al Murray's (AKA The Pub Landlord) musing on his childhood where his fascination with history and all things war began.See all Product description
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But that's not really where the book shines. Murray is clearly very well-informed on military history in general, and World War II in particular. Having made a television series on that very subject ("Al Murray's Road to Berlin," well worth a watch) and admitting candidly to a fascination with that conflict which borders on obsession, he is more than qualified to guide the reader on a whistle-stop tour of the Arnhem campgain (Operation Market Garden), the D-Day landings, and many of the other defining moments of the Second World War. For every joking reference to the wrong model of tank cropping up in a Hollywood blockbuster, there is a poignant, thoughtful, and moving treatise on the grimmer realities of young men going off to war, perhaps never to return.
This isn't really the light-hearted Pub Landlord romp through Hollywood war movies that you may have been expecting, and that is by no means a bad thing. Instead, Al Murray offers up an insightful and highly informative journey through the Second World War, interlaced with anecdotes from his life and a host of fascinating military facts. Well worth picking up.
Part biography, part WW2 history, part memoir.
The biography and memoir bits aren't revealing or particularly funny while the WW2 bits are initially interesting but quickly become repetitive (too much Arnhem by half Al).
There's no doubting the authors enthusiasm for and knowledge of his subject but it doesn't translate well to the page.
As for the war films of the title? Barely mentioned apart from at the very beginning and at the end, same goes for the authors Dad.
I was expecting a funny and wry memoir of childhood in the 70s, building Airfix models and playing with toy soldiers. Sadly, although they are briefly touched upon, I couldnt quite escape the feeling that I was reading a rather rambling and incoherent 6th form essay.
The book is a sort of autobiographical discourse on military history. It sort of argues against the fascination with it, cleverly taking us from his youth watching war films while his Dad points out all the inaccuracies in them (his Dad was a regular army officer, a para engineer). This part of the book is very good, and you can see what fascinated the young Al Murray and why he went on to read history at Oxford.
The journey continues to a continued adult fascination with WW2, and some examples of extraordinary exploits during that war. Both in terms of heroism and also on the cost of war in human suffering and young lives cut short. From there it is a short step to realising that as a society we've largely forgotten how horrible war is. You'd think that with the reminders we get on the news that we'd have it in the forefront of our minds, but instead we seem to revel in the glory and spectacle. Museums have more on uniforms, flags and vehicles, and less on the lives of the people that went to war, especially the many that failed to return.
Even as someone keen on military history I understand this position, and to a great extent I share it, as much as I share many of the cultural influences Al mentions in the book (I had action men, built airfix models and have watched all of the movies he references).
You can read this without being steeped in military history, it is very easy to read, and all the chapters are self-explanatory. In places there are little footnotes, which explain where it is necessary (and in a few cases where it isn't). The style is of a monologue, and it is generally fairly light, although towards the end it gets a little more serious.
My copy came to me from a goodreads giveaway, but it is something I would have bought anyway even if it hadn't. I certainly recommend it if you have ever watched a war movie with someone that provided a commentary on its wrongness (possibly including me, I've been that armchair critic)!
Fever Pitch for military buffs. packed with useful info, (if you fancy an amusing FACT HUNT! Look no further.)
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