AN INTIMATE HISTORY OF KILLING by Joanna Bourke

AN INTIMATE HISTORY OF KILLING

Face-to-Face Killing in Twentieth-Century Warfare

KIRKUS REVIEW

Bourke, a Professor of History at Birbeck College, offers an overwrought and overanalyzed look at the supposed attempt to separate killing from warfare in the 20th century. In such chapters as ‘The Pleasures of War,” “The Warrior Myth,” “War Crimes,” and “Return to Civilian Life,” Bourke attempts to offer a unique analysis of the manner in which killing manifests itself in WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. Though she states that “this book attempts to put the killing back in military history,” this statement will strike any reader of military history as absurd—the excellent social histories of Lyn McDonald, Stephen Ambrose’s accounts of WWII, or any of the memoirs of Viet Nam are rife with killing, killing to a point that is impossible for a focused reader to ignore—and Bourke’s very reliance on published sources serves as strong evidence that this killing is written into the accounts history has passed on to us. While Bourke’s writing is generally clear, and she does cover several interesting personal accounts of the war, many of which will be known to readers in the subject area (such as aviator Richard Hillary’s adventures in WWII), the ponderous nature of her arguments makes the book almost as unlikely a beach read as a training manual. By far the most fascinating element of the study is her discussion of the manner in which wartime atrocities bred further atrocities, such as the account of American tank commander John Long, who helped liberate a German concentration camp, then felt ever afterwards that all Germans were monsters. A gut-wrenching, encyclopedic account of the obvious. (Photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-465-00737-6
Page count: 500pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1999




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