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Like voices from the grave, devastatingly profound, and haunting. A review would be inappropriate, but my experience with this book was probably similar to other readers that were very young teens during the height of the Viet Nam war. Though I wore one of those MIA bracelets, sent neighbors and friend's older brothers off, went to Country Joe and the Fish concerts and yelled out the FISH cheer, I was young, distant, and naïve, and could only marginally intellectualize the atrocities and the nightly tally of deaths. Listening to Cranston narrate these stories gives faces to the words; the soldiers become flesh and blood -- not just characters and chapters. Their candid stories and Cranston's seriously brilliant interpretations were so achingly real that I could not listen long without pausing, or just stopping my device for a breather. (It took me 2 weeks to get through this.) This would be a much easier read, but hardly better; Cranston is able to convey the emotion, every chuckle, every hope, every pain, every horror. It's not always the obvious that is difficult to hear; the slaughter of the water buffalo wasn't half as savage as the fundamental experience that nurtured the attack... it's listening to the innocence and promise in these young soldiers as it ebbs away. It's looking back through the all-seeing eyes of retrospection and time, and probably also adding *mother* to the list of sister, daughter, girlfriend, neighbor. A vivid reminder of the fragility of life and the true cost of war. Like others have mentioned, there are several books concerning wars that give you that *boots-on-the-ground* feel, but this one, especially as it is performed here, is the emotional experience--to the degree that it can be shared.
136 of 148 people found this review helpful
These are just the intangibles that O'Brien packs into 'The Things They Carried'. There is something about Tim O'Brien's second (after 'Going After Cacciato') war masterpiece that just gets me. It is one of my favorite [I know, I know favorite isn't the right word and if I had more time, I'd figure out a better term] war novels ever. I love how O'Briend both masters and subverts the form. I love how he bends the reader through time and space. How O'Brien messes with the idea of what a true war story really is. This novel, along with 'Dispatches' by Kerr and 'Matterhorn' by Marlantes, infuses the Vietnam War with its own mass, a specific gravity and real tangible gravity. These fictional stories seem almost to be as true as any nonfiction books written about the War.
While I haven't been to war, both my brothers and a brother-in-law that have come back from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and the burdens they all returned with seem to reflect in this novel.
Finally, I'm not sure how they hooked Bryan Cranston for this narration, but it might just be my favorite narration EVER. Sir Anthony Hopkins nailed it when he wrote a note to Cranston about 'Breaking Bad':
That kind of work/artistry is rare, and when, once in a while, it occurs, as in this epic work, it restores confidence.
You and all the cast are the best actors I’ve ever seen.
That may sound like a good lung full of smoke blowing. But it is not. It’s almost midnight out here in Malibu, and I felt compelled to write this email.
Congratulations and my deepest respect. You are truly a great, great actor
Let me just add to and mimic the great Sir Anthony Hopkins. You Bryan are the best narrator I've ever HEARD.
78 of 88 people found this review helpful
What is a true war story? Can there be such a thing? Tim O'Brien ponders this and explains that there is not, at least not really. These tales and memories and anecdotes of his time in Vietnam all coalesce into a book with great gravity and poetry. War is awful and beautiful, boring and terrifying, and so intense that it overrules all else for the dead and the living alike. There a is an authentic and truthful power in the rumours and stories told, that was so strong it can't be described by me. And Bryan Cranston's reading is wonderful.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
A beautiful 8 hours. Bryan Cranston's reading is superb and the final chapter, as read by the author, is a very poignant finish to a truly wonderful book.
Only stumbled upon this book following Tim O'Brien's appearance on The Vietnam War documentary by Ken Burns. Both of these reflections on the conflict have been utterly mesmerising in their own ways. A great introduction to the subject for a person previously unaware of this most important topic in recent American history.
if not for Cranston this story would have been lost. the author seems to be in a lot of pain. I admire the author for writing about Nam and his personal struggle and Cranston for giving it a voice.