Jarhead by Anthony Swofford & other books

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I have been reading a number of books over the past few weeks, first up is Jarhead. This is the memoir of a marine sniper turned English teacher and his recollections from serving during the first Gulf War. Jarhead is well written and painfully honest.

Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead exposes the tedium and the base attraction of war from viewpoint of an educated grunt. Highlights include Swofford’s disgust and realisation at being billeted in barracks that were built years before in preparation for American soldiers to fight for Saudi oil and then lain empty waiting for him.

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn is a classic chambara tale of honour, love, duty, retribution, sacrifice and revenge with a side dish of court politics. Hearn’s academic background and love of Japanese culture shines through the copy on every page. Part one of a trilogy, I will be certainly looking out for the next two books.

The nightingale floor of the title is a specially constructed timber floor common in medieval Japanese castles that were designed so that it could not be walked on without creating some noise. Providing the castle dwellers with a type of zoned burglar alarm whilst they slept. Getting to an important person in the castle would require a Mission Impossible type plan, hence the almost supernatural skills and training afforded the ninja clans.

I was attracted on a whim to the title of Bangkok 8 because of a colleague of mine Lucy was leaving to go travelling in Thailand. That choice was serendipitous. John Burdett’s book was a pleasant surprise, part murder mystery, part travel guide and reflection on Buddhism. The story centres around the death of a policeman and a foreigner in Bangkok. It unfolds in front of you, in an intelligent yet light read. Burdett has a good understanding of East and Southeast Asia, having worked as a lawyer based out of Hong Kong for a number of years. His knowledge and love for the region shines through in his prose.  More book reviews here.