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September 13, 2010 | by  | in Books |
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Report On Experience

Report On Experience
John Mulgan

This book was forced upon me because I like World War Two—and that’s obviously what it’s about. John Mulgan was a New Zealand soldier during the war, and he apparently had time to type up this entire book chronicling his experience at war, as well as his childhood and how this shaped his experiences, before his death in Cairo just a few weeks before the end of the war. However, this is not your typical story of a New Zealander at war; not only is it a memoir of a war experience, it is also a political and social critique of war and how it affects everyone.

I was quite apprehensive about reading this book, I don’t know why, but I put it off for ages. I was expecting a literal report on Mulgan’s experience, written in a boring, this-happened-then-this-happened structure. It turns out that it’s anything but! Mulgan describes his childhood first; you get sucked in, you see aspects of your own childhood in New Zealand and can see how such an upbringing managed to shape some of his experiences at war. As the war begins, you’d assume that so, too, would the action, but it doesn’t. I spent the entire book waiting and waiting for the action, but this is not a story of action or heroics; it’s a general, honest story of war, one that would no doubt be fairly typical of any soldier during any number of wars. However, this is definitely Mulgan’s story; he leaves his own mark on you—he did all that he could during the war, he ousted his superiors who weren’t that good, he rescued strangers, he displayed his Kiwi ingenuity and he earned respect.

This is the kind of book that makes you proud to be a New Zealander; proud of our history and our contribution to the world’s history. So, although it doesn’t have all the gory details that would be expected from a war story, this one shows another aspect of war and is still pretty good

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