Rocklin, CA, United States | Member Since 2004
I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but since I bought this Audible book in 2004, I've listened to it four times before -- and before that, I read it twice. Makes it seems as though I'm either stuck in a rut, or lacking in imagination, but the truth is, this is one of the best fiction books ever written. I never get tired of it. And right now, I'm going through a rough patch -- a death in the family and upheaval all around -- and I needed a book that would hold my attention absolutely, I knew it was time for 'Up Country' again. It never disappoints.
Whoever came up with that old saying, 'if you want to know the truth, you have to read fiction' must have been thinking of "Up Country". For all of us who remember Vietnam, this is the perfect exegesis. I wasn't there myself, but I can still offer a list of friends who went and never came back -- and among those who did come back, who were changed forever.
'Up Country' puts the horror of that senseless war into context, without, believe it or not, being too grim about it. Oh, the book is a thriller, alright, plenty of white knuckle moments, but lots of humorous ones, too.
But maybe the best part -- probably the reason I read it again and again -- is that scattered throughout, are the little bits of pithy commentary and common sense wisdom Nelson DeMille drops in. Like in a Vietnam bar scene, where protagonist Paul Brenner is meeting with the mysterious expat, Susan Weber: Susan has spent the last decade or so in Vietnam, which makes Paul wonder why: Why would someone choose to live outside the US? What's the attraction? And Susan goes on to explain. You'll have to listen to the book to hear what she says, but I can tell you this: Twice in my life I've lived as an expat, first in Mexico back in the mid-1960's, then, for the last dozen years, in Israel. Her explanation -- which is to say DeMille's explanation -- is the best summary I've ever seen as to why any of us do it, what it is in our personalities that makes us choose to live outside the US, and what it is we like about it. What DeMille presents is a phenomenal piece of psychology -- and in this, I know personally that he's right on the mark.
As he is about Vietnam -- the noble goals, the bitterness of frustration, the heartbreaking impacts on everyone involved, American, British, French and most certainly the Vietnamese people themselves. It's a remarkable display of human nature in these pages, with every one of the very diverse characters coming fully alive, believable as is possible.
The narration is superb. This is Scott Brick before he became Scott Brick -- which is to say, his narration here is far superior to that of his more recent books, where -- in my opinion -- he overacts to a fault, imbuing way too many words with far too much meaning. This is a straight reading of the book -- not flat, so that Brenner's one-liners don't hit home, just not so exaggerated as to be annoying.
So this is listen #5 -- even so, I know it won't be the last. This is a great book. Period.
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