Wednesday, March 02, 2005

ALWAYS FAITHFUL by John Hartnett (iUniverse)

If there is any flaw to John Hartnett’s ALWAYS FAITHFUL, A MEMOIR OF THE GULF WAR, it’s that it is too similar in title to William Putney’s ALWAYS FAITHFUL, A MEMOIR OF THE MARINE DOGS OF WWII. If you do a search on Amazon, you’ll get a deluge of “Always Faithful” titles, but having duplicate titles about ex-war marines might easily spin the reader in the wrong direction.

But that’s where it stops.

The rest of this marvelous memoir is a delight to read. And I should say we are talking about the first Gulf War (Desert Shield)—which may be why New York passed (assuming they passed) on publishing it; they’re certainly more concerned with the current war. The sad part is this book is far more poignant than some of the most recent war titles released from the big houses.

Hartnett’s memoir is not so much a story about fighting and bleeding in battle, and it is certainly not filled with the details of war itself (far less, in fact, than you might find in a W.E.B. Griffin or Tom Clancy novel.) Instead, it is the humble story of a man caught between honoring his family and honoring his country and fellow marines—taking all of the stresses and issues of home life and throwing war on top of it. Hartnett delves into the far deeper philosophical aspects of war—and morality. He even touches on his influences (right down to Lawrence’s SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM.) He lets you get into his mind, virtually asking you to help make the decisions for him, and you come along for the ride, both up and down.

I found myself not only enjoying the prose, but flying through the book, ultimately wishing there had been more than the 180 or so pages. The book is interesting and thought-provoking and would not only please those with an appetite for military history, but the reader drawn to memoirs dealing with internal battles, with yearning.

This POD title is worth the money. If you can find a copy, buy it and enjoy. Then tuck it away on your bookshelf in a nice safe place. You’ll want to read it again someday.

Trust me.