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#33 Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

15 Jul
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller

Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

Goodreads rating: 3.96/5 (380K+ ratings)
My rating: 4/10
First Published: 11 November, 1961
Genre: Satire; War Fiction; Historical Fiction; Dark Humour

A classic novel, Catch-22 follows Captain John Yossarian who is part of the US Air Force, and is primarily based on an island off Italy where his squadron is stationed during World War II. It is mainly about how they keep their sanity while waiting for the war to end, and how they keep themselves going.

This book took me 2 very very long months to read, and I didn’t enjoy it until the last 3 chapters. I think I just don’t ‘get’ satire – I think it might be too clever for me to be perfectly honest. I was bored. I also got confused because the story jumps around in time and character, and I found it difficult to figure out where in the timeline of events I was.

The tone of the book is generally upbeat in the beginning, but the mood significantly drops about two-thirds of the way through, and that was actually when it got a bit interesting!

I definitely had quite a few chuckles throughout the book, but overall I really didn’t look forward to reading it, or enjoy it.

Notable quotes

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he would have to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. “That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed. “It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.

One of the things [Yossarian] wanted to start screaming about was the surgeon’s knife that was almost certain to be waiting for him and everyone else who lived long enough to die. He wondered often how he would ever recognize the first chill, flush, twinge, ache, belch, sneeze, stain, lethargy, vocal slip, loss of balance or lapse of memory that would signal the inevitable beginning of the inevitable end.

“Haven’t you got anything humorous that stays away from waters and valleys and God? I’d like to keep away from the subject of religion altogether if we can.”
The chaplain was apologetic. “I’m sorry, sir, but I’m afraid all the prayers I know are rather somber in tone and make at least some passing reference to God.”
“Then let’s get some new ones.”

Yossarian was cold, too, and shivering uncontrollably. He felt goose pimples clacking all over him as he gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled all over the messy floor. It was easy to read the message in his entrails. Man was matter, that was Snowden’s secret. Drop him out a window and he’ll fall. Set fire to him and he’ll burn. Bury him and he’ll rot, like other kinds of garbage. That was Snowden’s secret. Ripeness was all.

Past reviews

“A wild, moving, shocking, hilarious, raging, exhilarating, giant roller-coaster of a book” – The New York Tribune

“A dazzling performance that will outrage nearly as many readers as it delights”- The New York Times

“doesn’t even seem to be written; instead, it gives the impression of having been shouted onto paper,” – The New Yorker

-H-

If you’ve read this, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts or reading your reviews so please share any links!

#32 The Bridge to Holy Cross – Paullina Simons

13 Jul

The Bronze Horseman Trilogy – Book 2 of 3
Read my review of book one here

The Bridge to Holy Cross - Paullina Simons

The Bridge to Holy Cross – Paullina Simons

 

Goodreads rating: 4.33/5 (14,100+ ratings)
My rating: 7/10
First Published: May 22, 2001
Genre: Romance; Historical Fiction

The Bridge to Holy Cross (also known as Tatiana & Alexander) is the second book in The Bronze Horseman trilogy, and follows book one – The Bronze Horseman. If you haven’t read Book One, I suggest you stop reading this review, and go and read it!

The Bridge to Holy Cross follows Tatiana and Alexander. Tatiana has now had Alexander’s baby, named Anthony, and has escaped to Ellis Island in New York, where she works as a nurse and has made friends in America. She believes Alexander has been killed during the war, however Alexander is alive in the Soviet Union and has been captured by the secret police, where he awaits death accused of being a traitor and a spy. The book revolves around both their perspectives, and their journey to find out the truth about each others circumstances.

I enjoyed it. My main issue with it, was that it repeated a lot of what we already knew and heard in book 1. Particularly it repeated the parts that I got bored of in book one (read the review to see what that was). However, it’s a really easy read, despite the size, and it totally draws you in, just like the first one.

I find Tatiana really lovely and endearing, however really don’t like Alexander. I’d be happy if Alexander did die, however I want them to find each other because of how much I like Tatiana. A friend at work has read this book and likes Alexander so it could just be me!

Apart from some of the repetitiveness, overall I really enjoyed this book, and am looking forward to reading the third, and final, book of the series, The Summer Garden.

If you’ve read this, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts or reading your reviews so please share any links!

-H-

 

#26 All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque

8 Dec
All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque

Goodreads rating: 3.81/5 (128K+ ratings)

My rating: 8/10

First published: 29th January 1929

Genre: Historical Fiction, War

This book is not very long. It’s less than 300 pages and is broken up into short chapters, which makes it super quick to get through. It’s from the perspective of an early 20s man called Paul Bäumer, who is a German soldier who is convinced by his teacher, along with the rest of his classmates, to join the German army at the start of WWI. It details his experiences, along with his best friends’, on the front line, in training, and on leave.

I’ve read quite a few books that are set during wars, and whilst all are quite sad, none have ever got to me as much as this one. The level of detail about how Paul is feeling while sitting in the trenches on the front line, cowering from the shelling, and watching friends die while he starves, is incredible and devastating.

It was weird reading this knowing it was from a German soldiers perspective for two reasons – a) because I’ve never read a wartime book that was from a German’s perspective and b) I feel like I should be ‘going for’ the other side when reading these sorts of books as my Grandfather fought in WWII for the English side, and I’ve always felt like I should ‘go’ for England. Yet reading this book you totally forget that you’re reading about a German soldier. It feels like it could be any soldier in any war, and I felt sad for him regardless.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone. It’s pretty raw, and it gave me more insight into war (which was devastating). The book is well written, and the ending is just right.

Notable quotes

We march up, moody or good-tempered soldiers – we reach the zone where the front begins and become on the instant human animals.

When we went to the District Commandant to enlist, we were a class of twenty young men, many of whom proudly shaved for the first time before going to the barracks. We had no definite plans for our future. Our thoughts for a career and occupation were as yet of too unpractical a character to furnish any scheme of life. We were still crammed with vague ideas which gave to life, and to the war also, an ideal and almost romantic character. 

The soldier is on friendlier terms than other men with his stomach and intestines. Three-quarters of his vocabulary is derived from these regions, and they give an intimate flavor to expressions of his greatest joy as well as of his deepest indignation.

But the shelling is stronger than everything. It wipes out the sensibilities, I merely crawl still deeper in the coffin, it should protect me, and especially as Death himself lies in it too.

In the branches dead men are hanging. A naked soldier is squatting in the fork of a tree, he still has his helmet on, otherwise he is entirely unclad. There is only half of him sitting up there, the top half, the legs are missing.

“It’s queer, when one thinks about it,” goes on Kropp, “we are here to protect our fatherland. And the French are over there to protect their fatherland. Now who’s in the right?” 

-H-

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