Skip to main content

CR3 #29: We Who Are Alive and Remain by Marcus Brotherton

This book is a companion piece of sorts to Stephen Ambrose's incredible work Band of Brothers. Basically, it is the combined recollections of several more soldiers who served in the 101st paratroopers but were not featured in Ambrose's book. It begins with each man's background, then moves through his training, into his combat experiences, and finishes with a little bit about their lives after the war. There are also three chapters written by the children of men who passed away before the books were written.

As much as I wanted to like this book, I really was somewhat unimpressed. My lack of interest had little to do with the actual content--each man had some amazing, touching, impressive recollections--and more with how the book was arranged. Each chapter had a section by each man revolving around a particular topic, like training, or a specific campaign of the war. For example, the chapter on training was particularly confusing, since it spanned nearly two years--most of these men were replacement soldiers, so they did not train at the same time or in the same places. The author did not tie the stories together, but simply organized them exactly as the men told them. There is no real context or objective fact, since it is solely the subjective views of a small group of soldiers. Another issue is the chapters written by the deceased soldiers' families--it's nice to hear how great their fathers were, but since none of the men had been particularly forthcoming (if at all) about their war experiences, those chapters--while touching--are basically "my father was a great man who didn't like to talk about the war."

Although it might be considered unfair to compare this work to Band of Brothers, I find it perfectly reasonable, since it was written as a reaction. One of the main problems is that while some of the soldiers vehemently disagree on the way some incidents were portrayed in the original book and mini-series (for instance there is much debate on whether drill instructor Sobel was the unstable martinet he was portrayed as by Ambrose), there are no facts or evidence, only personal opinions. Ambrose's book combines the men's memories with solid research, which lends him more credibility.

On the positive side, the men interviewed by Brotherton are all very interesting people, and they have some great stories to tell. There are many humorous anecdotes, including untold stories about the men featured in Band of Brothers. There are also some very poignant sections, including the reactions of the men who had a hand in liberating concentration camps. In my opinion, the author's work interviewing these veterans is amazing--they all have such interesting views, and I'm glad the time was taken to record their stories. The content in the book is definitely interesting and worth reading, but it is just sorely lacking as far as broader context is concerned. Only someone who already knows WW2 history will be able to follow a lot of the events.

This is not a bad book for those who really enjoyed Band of Brothers and are interested in hearing about those events from a slightly different perspective. However, it is a very poor stand-alone book, since it is lacking in facts and context as well as making constant references to Ambrose's superior work.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

CR3 # 17: Mount Misery by Samuel Shem

Mount Misery is the sequel to Samuel Shem's first book, House of God (review here). It follows Dr. Roy Basch as he leaves the House of God and moves to psychiatric hospital Mount Misery to begin his psychiatric residency. Unfortunately, it turns out that psychiatrists are just as crazy, confused, and often detrimental as medical doctors. As Dr. Basch cycles through the various sectors of the hospital (talk therapy, admissions, Freudian Analysis, drug therapy) he is horrified to discover that it seems everything he is being taught is not only wrong, but potentially dangerous. He begins to fall into terrible patterns of behavior, mirroring the problems his patients are having. Each area is worse than the last, with one doctor who thinks the best way to treat is to be aggressively hostile, one who cares only about insurance premiums and efficiency, one who treats with silence and "regression," and one who thinks the only viable treatment is to pump every patient full of exp…

CR3 #30: The First Wives Club by Olivia Goldsmith

I saw the movie of The First Wives Club before I read the book. It's a cute chick flick, in which scorned women take comedic revenge on their former spouses. They become better friends and everyone winds up happy in the end. I was somewhat surprised (though not much--the differences between film and literature are often wide) at how different the book was--I am used to changes in plot or small character changes (combining two characters into one, or perhaps changing to a more pleasant ending) but the major change here between novel and movie was the tone.

The story is basically the same; After a close friend's suicide, three middle-aged female friends get together and beginning reviewing their lives. They realize that much like their late friend, they have been screwed over by the men in their lives--the men used them to get to their high social and financial positions, then screwed them over both personally and financially. The three women decide to use their wits and their co…

CBR9 #5 Borgin Keep by Ron Ripley

I've read the entire Berkeley Street series, as well as the Haunted series, and I think this was definitely one of the better offerings. This time, former Marine Shane and his slowly growing band of willing (and unwilling) ghost hunting allies face their biggest challenge yet. While the ghosts of Borgin Keep are both very dangerous and very evil, Shane also must keep one step ahead of The Watchers, a ruthless and powerful organization who find him to be a threat to their shadowy goals.

As always, for me the best part are the characters. Shane and his ghost-hunting partner Frank (a former soldier/former monk) are joined once again by police detective Marie LaFontaine, who is a very tough woman determined to avenge a dead friend. I'm not as fond of Shane's girlfriend Courtney, but I understand her uses as far as character development.

The plot moves along quickly, and I found this book a little better fleshed out than a few of the previous ones in the series -- while I enjoye…