Book Review:The Things they Carried by Tim O Brien

Author: Sherry Helms

Both a war memoir and a writer’s autobiography, ‘The things they carried’ is a collection of interrelated stories. Being a war story,there are some truly disturbing, graphic and violent scenes.But readers will also find haunting, funny , surreal or ironic scenes. According to the publisher of the book the book is ‘a work of fiction’ and in no real sense can it be considered a novel. The author complicates the presentation of the story by creating a fictional protagonist who shares his name. Readers should remember that this book is a fictional work rather than a conventional non fictional, historical account.

While this book is a complete and cohesive work of art, many of its component stories could stand alone as independent pieces of literature. However, this book is classified; it is and will remain a profoundly moving masterpiece.

The protagonist Tim O’ Brien is a middle aged writer and a Vietnam War veteran. His primary role in the book is remembering his past and reworking the details of these memories of his service in Vietnam into meaning.  Through a series of linked stories, O’ Brien illuminates the characters of the men with whom he served and draws meaning about the war from meditations on their relationships. Visceral, haunting, provoking and gripping—these stories will rip into you. By moving beyond the horror of the fighting to examine with sensitivity and insight the nature of courage and fear, by questioning the role that imagination plays in helping to form our memories and our own versions of truth, O’ Brien places ‘The things they carried’ high upon the list of best fiction about any war.

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