They carried malaria tablets, love letters, 28-pound mine detectors, dope, illustrated bibles, each other. And if they made it home alive, they carried unrelenting images of a nightmarish war that history is only beginning to absorb. Since its first publication, The Things They Carried has become an unparalleled Vietnam testament, a classic work of American literature, and a profound study of men at war that illuminates the capacity, and the limits, of the human heart and soul.
They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.
No review that I write will, in any way, justify what this book is. In an interview, Tim O’Brien said that a true war story should capture “your heart and stomach and the back of the throat”. And it did.
I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.
Tim O’Brien is a veteran from the Vietnam war. The Things They Carried reads like a memoir, it even has a character named Tim O’Brien in the book, but it is categorized as fiction because the author has stated that most of the stories in the novel are not true. That said, the stories are so real it’ll take you to Vietnam with this group of drafted soldiers who are fighting in a war they don’t want to be in.
The novel is written in a series of short stories that seem unrelated at first but intertwine as the book continues. Some of the lines O’Brien writes are so incredible that you want to put the book down and just process his words.
It took him twenty years after the war to write this book and it’s clear how much he still thinks about those days. This is an excerpt taken from his interview:
I think young people, in particular, need to understand the complications and the ambiguities of these things, and to hear it from someone who has not only gone to a war, but devoted a lifetime to suffering from it.
This is a horrible review for a wonderful book. Take my word for it if you will and read it.
Here’s a link to the interview I keep bringing up if anyone cares to watch: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics-jan-june10-obrien_04-28/