The Junior Officer's Reading Club

  • by Patrick Hennessey
  • Narrated by Patrick Hennessey
  • 9 hrs and 0 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

'The most accomplished work of military witness to emerge from British war-fighting since 1945' (Boyd Tonkin)
Patrick Hennessey is a graduate in his 20s. He reads Graham Greene, listens to early-90s house on his iPod and watches Vietnam movies. He has also, as an officer in the Grenadier Guards, fought in some of the most violent combat the British army has seen in a generation.
This is the story of how a modern soldier is made, from the testosterone-heavy breeding ground of Sandhurst to the nightmare of Iraq and Afghanistan. Showing war in all its terror, boredom, and exhilaration, The Junior Officers’ Reading Club is already being hailed as a modern classic.


What the Critics Say

"A very fine book, a powerful dispatch from the front line...what impresses is the sheer candour and immediacy." (Spectator)
"An extraordinary memoir . . . Hennessey has a reporter’s eye for detail and a soldier’s nose for bullshitAn extraordinary memoir . . . Hennessey has a reporter’s eye for detail and a soldier’s nose for bullshit." (Guardian)
"All politicians need to read honest accounts of war – at no time more than now – and Patrick Hennessey’s The Junior Officers’ Reading Club is one of the very best - David Cameron." (Books of the Year, Observer)
"Outstanding . . . A classic of its kind." (William Boyd, Books of the Year, Herald)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Contemporary war fighting explained

If you have ever wondered what a contemporary soldier is like; what he does and why, this may provide some of the answers. It is detailed, personal, witty and highly listenable.

While the book takes a brief tour of Hennessey's other military experience, it focuses on his time in the Afghan war. I ended the book knowing a lot more about how contemporary wars are fought, and having enjoyed some very good storytelling.

The socio-political background is better explained in Patrick Bishop's 'Ground Truth,' but this first-hand account is unmissable.

The author reads it, and his ironic, dark, dry wit may be clearer here than in the printed version (online reviews suggest that some hard-copy readers can't tell when he is kidding and when he isn't). This is an example of a work that is probably stronger as an audiobook than in printed form.

The book shows how the weapons, navigation, logistics and communications technology of the ISAF (the Western coalition) make firefights very one-sided affairs. However, it also spells out how dangerous life can be on the ISAF side. The author claims that the casualty rate in UK frontline infantry is about one in three. Official ratios count personnel who are not in close contact with the enemy and are thus much lower.

I should mention that, in common with some other reviewers, I also ended the book with a powerful dislike for the author. I don't think he intends this, and in an odd way, it is actually one of the book's delights. In that respect, it has something in common with Toby Young's 'How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.'

You won't find much about the lives, characters, motivations, emotions and thoughts of the author's friends and colleagues. I got the impression that he sees the rest of the human race simply as scenery: a collection of good blokes, odd blokes, Afghans and girls; all of whom are adequately explained and described in a sentence each. Which is probably handy if your job involves shooting people, but I wouldn't want to listen to him in a pub. I would have expected a richer view than this from a man with a first-rate education and who has been around people in extremes of fear and danger.

Whatever you make of the previous two paragraphs, I do recommend the book, and after listening to it, you probably will too.

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- Richard


Really enjoyed this audiobook. It is a well written and well narrated account of life on the front line and of particular interest to me was the honest description of the conflicting emotions the author experienced before, during and after his involvement in war. It gives a different perspective which I found refreshing.
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- Phil

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-27-2010
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd