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Cannonball Read V: Going After Cacciato by Tim O'Brien

By Kayt | Book Reviews | May 27, 2013 | Comments ()


Going After Cacciato is regarded by many as one of the greatest war novels ever written, and it certainly lived up to expectations. I'm no expert on war literature, but I would say it might be the finest literary work to emerge from the Vietnam War. Tim O'Brien has created a beautiful, enduring, and important book that deserves to be read by anyone interested in war, fiction, or just great literature.

The plot is as follows: One day a young soldier named Cacciato decides he's had enough of this war, and sets out for Paris on foot. A group of fellow soldiers go after him. The story follows them on their absurd journey through Vietnam and beyond. The book takes on a hallucinatory feel, often jumping between timelines, and making you question the reality of the story. This blend of fantasy and reality heightens the story, making it that much more fun to read.

The book is at times horrifying, humorous, shocking, fantastical, and deeply sad, the whole time underscored by O'Brien's strong, crisp prose. The narrative moves along briskly and engrossingly, following the characters and the crazy things they encounter on their wild chase such as the Water Buffalo they lose falling down an Alice in Wonderland-like hole, or the beheading they witness in Tehran . O'Brien beautifully explores the different men, their lives, fears, and motivations, and on the deeper level, the motivation for war itself, and the purpose these men are actually serving.

It is evident that O'Brien, a foot soldier in Vietnam, knows his material very well. Drawing from personal knowledge and a rich imagination, O'Brien constructs a vivid, haunting and beautiful portrait of war, and soldiers. Combining the gritty realism and horrors of war, with the surrealism of this story, O'Brien has crafted not just one of the greatest war novels, one the greatest novels period.

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read V. Read all about it , and find more of Kayt's reviews on the group blog.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)

(Tim O'Brien, drafted in 1968, served as an infantryman in Vietnam. Photo courtesy: mikes)

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • jamie

    the things they carried

    oh what a book

  • Carrie/Teabelly

    Yes! I read that years ago but still think of it now and then. I need to revisit, and also read some of his others, because his writing was wonderful (despite the hard subject matter at times).

  • rhinobullet

    Also, If I Die In A Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home is a great book of his too.

  • Semilitterate

    Read this book ages ago. Always recommend it those who express an interest in Vietnam and all the craziness that happened during that period of our history.

  • Julia

    Tim O'Brien is one of my favorite authors. You beautifully summed up one of his best books.

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