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23 December 2012

Nelson DeMille: Word of Honor

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Best DeMille, Best Vietnam novel
I have been a Nelson DeMille fan for ages and for a long time this book has been my favourite. I read it when it was released and then chased it down in a second-hand book-store because I needed to refresh my memory of a book that I found difficult to forget. Some time soon I hope to find a Kindle version at a mark-down price that allows me to add it to my Kindle Classics collection of my most memorable books.

This book described the Vietnam war and the military and moral challenges faced more realistically and understandingly than any other Vietnam novel I have read. It showed the dangers and moral challenges US and Allied soldiers had to address daily and how long term exposure to the brutality and the hidden and unknown enemy could change moral and human values in an instant. It exposed these things through the eyes of a character who tried to do his duty honourably but was put into a position by his platoon where he had to live with his decisions for the rest of his life.

Ben Tyson was a good man, and led a good life after Vietnam. But what happened sixteen years ago when Ben Tyson was a lieutenant in Vietnam and the men under his command committed a atrocity - and together swore never to tell the world what they had done - eventually came back to haunt him.

I tried to avoid reading novels about the Vietnam War but read this one because it was written by Nelson DeMille. The book left me emotionally scarred by what Tyson faced, both in Vietnam and in later life when the incident unfolds in court and you had to try to understand what really happened that day and how Tyson and his men reacted. It was a long book of nearly 800 pages and towards the end I was so engrossed I decided to read it on a bus ride to work (normally a recipe for travel sickness). I can still remember how I teared up duirng the finale and hoped that my fellow passengers didn't notice my reactions.

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