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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 10 June 2016
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A brief prologue ‘Tarawa’ refers to the World War II Pacific Battle of Tarawa with its great loss of American lives, after which new approaches to war and then terrorism were required. Readers are given a brief background to ‘The United States Navy SEALs’ (sea, air, land) which evolved as a new military special force to engage in secret and unorthodox missions. Information on the ‘warriors’ recruited and trained for these operations is presented by author Lea Carpenter and it is clear she has in-depth knowledge from the ‘Glossary’ and the ‘Bibliography’.

After the horrific event of 9/11 Sara, mother of Jason, has to accept his decision to become a SEAL. Sara knows little of what he trains for, where he serves, and what are his actions. She steeps herself in military and political issues to try and understand, but she shies from reality. She relies on lengthy correspondence with Jason, and yet though their relationship is loving they keep facts at arm’s length. There is a strong bond between mother and son, and a great respect for serving one’s country.

‘Eleven Days’ commences in May 2011 when Jason is missing after an assignment, and though the media spotlight falls on Sara she knows no more than the pressmen at her gate or her neighbourly well-wishers. The first insights to Jason are provided, before narrative then moves backwards and forwards again to inform readers of Jason’s absentee father, his upbringing and life with his mother and godfather, and his previous SEAL missions. As a mother-son story it is moving and affecting, and based on the author’s credentials it can be accepted as authentic commentary on military matters, and she introduces factual references – but this mixture makes me feel uncomfortable – too many characters with emphasis on themselves – I didn’t like it.
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VINE VOICEon 2 October 2017
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At the moment, I am writing a series of fictional books which involve Special Forces characters, both from the UK and the USA. The very nature of the subject means that current material is not generally accessible. When I started reading, this was just more research, but the way that the book is written makes it much more. We can never forget that there are families involved and that was what came across to me. Highly recommended to those wanting to understand what those two words Special Forces actually mean.
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on 27 October 2015
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Uneasy mix of fact and fiction that explores the personality of a US Navy SEAL who is a romantic mix of poet, scholar and warrior.

Doesn't live up to the cover puff and is pale and detached compared to recent works by Powers and Fountain - but worth a read.
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In "Eleven Days", Lea Carpenter does an excellent job of addressing the individual and organizational culture of US Navy SEALs. She does this without glamor or stars in her eyes. It is a fair and intimate portrait of the transition that takes somebody from trainee to "operator". This thread of the book is solid five-star fiction.

This book addresses the connection between Sara --single mother widowed at a young age-- and her son (Jason), a junior SEAL officer at a crossroads in his professional career, weighing options inside and outside of the military, all while proceeding with the dangerous business of his operational commitments. The military narrative is solid and credible. Less credible is the civilian and pseudo-governmental back story involving the political connections of Jason's godfather and the true circumstances of his father's death.

If you are interested in a highly personalized depiction of the how modern special warfare leaders are shaped, this is well worth reading.

Why four stars instead of five?
Early in my military service, I heard urban legends of service members (officers and enlisted alike) whose service records were emblazoned with "PI" stamps, notifying the world of political influence wielded by their families. I never knew if this myth was true or not, and have always wondered how the children of Biden and Palin (and other politicians who love to wear the service of their children on their sleeves) were treated by both commanders and peers as a result of their parents' visibility. The subplot of political influence runs far too strongly through this novel, and detracted from the otherwise strong personal narrative. The book's conclusion features a specially arranged flight that takes Sara from the states to Afghanistan; this too strained my willingness to suspend disbelief. Beyond that, at one point Jason is inventorying his combat gear, and we are treated to an extract from The Things They Carried. It's interesting...but it's been done. Finally, I've known many officers who are scholar-warriors, but for the most part they do not display this fondness for scholarship as overtly as depicted in this book.

Don't let my perceptions of this book's minor shortcomings deter you: this is well worth reading.
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#1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERon 26 August 2015
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From the descriptions and the endorsements I was expecting something quite special from this book, but I'm afraid I didn't really get on with it.

The story has been well summarized by others: set in the USA in 2012 with intercut episodes of what led to the present situation, it is the story of single mother Sara whose son Jason decides not to pursue the brilliant academic career open to him, but to train for Special Forces. As we join Sara, Jason has been missing in action for nine days and the book tells of her responses and those of others to unfolding events, with lengthy passages about Jason's training and military career.

In many ways it is very good: it is well written and extremely knowledgeable. It is concerned principally with the internal lives of the two main characters and Lea Carpenter has put a great deal of thought into them - but it never really engaged me, somehow. I found it rather plodding and frankly a bit of a struggle for a lot of its length. The episodic nature of the narrative is partly responsible, but I think it's principally that for me Carpenter doesn't quite create real, recognisable characters. Something about them seemed a little like CGI in films - close, but not quite real.

Whatever the reason, the book didn't gel with me. This is just my personal response, of course, and I wouldn't want to put anyone off. My copy of the book carries endorsements from both Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Half Time Walk, and Kevin Powers, author of The Yellow Birds which in their very different ways are both brilliant, and two of the best books about war I have ever read. They both think Eleven Days is terrific, plenty of other people plainly think it's excellent and you may do, too, but I can only give it a very lukewarm recommendation.

(I would very warmly recommend both Billy Lynn's Long Half Time Walk and The Yellow Birds, by the way:
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
The Yellow Birds)
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on 3 December 2014
Having read a lot of the recent crop of novels from North Africa and the Middle East fictionalising the myriad reasons why young men can be radicalised and driven to commit violence, Carpenter's "Eleven Days" makes for a good companion piece from the other side of the experience.

The book opens with Sara, a single mother, awaiting news of her only son, who has been missing on a military operation for nine days. Sara's waiting game leaves the field open to explore memories of her son Jason's own motivations for signing up and his journey from high school to military manhood. This is a book of ideas with much philosophising about warfare, sacrifice and what ideas or loyalties are worth risking one's life for. The ambiguities of the changing face of modern conflict are much ruminated over, alongside the way in which distant conflict, with no immediate threat to friends or family, is sustained by military folklore and mythologies.

This is also though a very American novel, for Jason is no ordinary son, rather the child of parents with CIA links and friends in the Pentagon. This opens the way for more discussion about the politics behind deployment and a more detailed history of America's development of its Special Forces. Although this adds a broader context to Jason's story, just occasionally it does strain the element of disbelief further than I would like - you are left in no doubt that Sara's experience is not representative of that of other servicemen's mothers. The novel is also very America-centric in the way in which it delves into military detail, peppering the prose with a hefty share of acronyms, not all of which are explained at the end. As a non-American and non-military reader, I would have welcomed a more comprehensive glossary to render these paragraphs a little more accessible.

All in though, this is a very engaging and compelling read. It is a valuable book in the broader context of fictional accounts of the 'War on Terror' and it should really be required reading alongside some of the novels coming out of the countries at the heart of this conflict for would-be policy-makers and soldiers alike.
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VINE VOICEon 30 August 2015
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I am afraid that this novel left me feeling rather cold. There is no emotional life to it at all, lacking any kind of depth. The writing has an autistic quality, where there is an annoying inherent distance that separates the author from the lives of these characters. I felt no closer knowing the individuals as I was from the start. Like plodding through treacle, I was glad to reach the end, indeed a relief. Far too detached, this gets a one star through sheer frustration, as this could have been so much better.

I am not sure where this book fits. It is not a novel per se, but an interesting exploration of a small part of modern military history. It does begin to look at what might propel a young man, of brawn and brain, to pursue such a career in this élite military service of naval special warfare in our modern age. Pride, heroism, personal drive is certainly noted which is both sobering and informative and an intriguing glimpse into the world of the operator, where the team is everything and individuality rather scorned.

This novel addresses some important things, and is significant in its own right as a discourse on mans’ involvement in war from Sparta to Vietnam to Afghanistan, but however this is not a book I can recommend.
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VINE VOICEon 1 September 2015
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Really loved this debut novel. It's original, well written and very moving. Sara is a still relatively young single parent whose beloved only son Jason decides to follow in his father's footsteps and join the armed forces - in particular the Navy Seals. The book opens with Sara being told the shocking news that Jason is missing in action, and continues in flashback to explain their close relationship, and the events that unfold in the days after she gets this devastating news. It cleverly puts both sides of the argument in terms of the war, in the shape of the views of Sara and her son. But it is also the story of a beautiful family relationship. Powerful and mesmerising. I couldn't put it down.
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VINE VOICEon 24 February 2016
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Thoroughly fascinating read, well researched and very believable. I felt so much for Sara as she tries to cope with her son being missing -and all that follows from that. The flashbacks to his childhood are well done and the shift in focus at times to her son, Jason's life works really well too. I would recommend this book to any parent and to anyone interested in human relationships!
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VINE VOICEon 2 September 2015
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This books grows on you. They style of writing is gentle, restrained which becomes incredibly effective as the plot takes unexpected twists and turns that pack a real punch. It had me in tears towards the end. An excellent read.
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