Tag Archives: War

Review: The Bridge on the Drina

The Bridge on the Drina

The Bridge on the Drina
By Ivo Andric
University of Chicago Press, 9780226020457, August 1977, 314pp.

The Short of It:

An excellent book to discuss with a group.

The Rest of It:

Publisher’s blurb:

The Bridge on the Drina is a vivid depiction of the suffering history has imposed upon the people of Bosnia from the late 16th century to the beginning of World War I. As we seek to make sense of the current nightmare in this region, this remarkable, timely book serves as a reliable guide to its people and history.

This is the book that ruined me for all reading, at least, while it was being read. It’s choppy, full of superfluous details and it’s impossible to remember any of the character’s names, but for a discussion book, it was excellent. It just wasn’t excellent for the other reading I had committed to. I could not read anything else while reading this one.

The Bridge on the Drina  is the type of book that has to be discussed and picked apart. You simply can’t digest it without discussing it in some way. Parts of it put me to sleep but then every now and then there would be this beautifully structured sentence or this profound thought. Ivo Andrić won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961 so the man can write, but as a group we all decided that the book was not written for us. It was a translation, so perhaps some meaning was lost there but it was just a hard story to get through and to feel anything for.

Plus, I didn’t know much about the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina and although there were plenty of details, I felt that many of them were related to the bridge itself, not so much the timeline of events. The author focused on the longevity of the structure and how it remained unchanged while the people who lived in that village came and went with the ebb and flow of their day-to-day life. Things change but they don’t change. You know?

The book includes some violence but not as much as you’d expect. There is one particularly grotesque depiction of a man being skewered alive. Oh! The details. One thing I know, I never would have picked this book up had it not been chosen for a discussion. I also know that it’s incredibly hard to come by. It’s currently out of print and I had to order it through the university I work for. But, if you need a book to discuss, The Bridge on the Drina will definitely get your group talking.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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Review: The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried
By Tim O’Brien
Houghton Mifflin, Hardcover, 9780547391175, March 2010, 233pp.

The Short of It:

When it comes to storytelling, memory alone can be unreliable.

The Rest of It:

From Indiebound:

Depicting the men of Alpha Company Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and the character Tim O Brien, who survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three the stories in The Things They Carried opened our eyes to the nature of war in a way we will never forget.

At times, this collection felt very real to me. O’Brien served in Vietnam so the level of detail included in each story really gives you a sense of what it was like there, but there are also some implausible things that take place that remind you that it is indeed a work of fiction. Nevertheless, as a book club read it was an interesting book to discuss.

Memory. How important it is in telling stories like these? Does it really matter if the stories were based on actual events? In this case, no. If O’Brien’s purpose was to give us an idea of what it was like to be on the lines, then I’d say that the author succeeded. The details are grisly and O’Brien doesn’t hold back when sharing the cruel side of human nature. A couple of the stories feature animal cruelty that nearly all of us had a tough time getting through. Overall, the horrors of war were made very clear.

I do not enjoy war stories (at all) but I did find this book to be very readable and it was an excellent book to discuss with a group.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.