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Mouthful of Rocks: Modern Adventures in the French Foreign Legion Paperback – March 1, 1991


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jennings was a 22-year-old delivery boy in London when, in 1984, he joined the legendary Legion. In an hypnotically bland narrative style, he recalls the training, the vicious routine beatings, the boozing and whoring during off-duty hours--and the scathing xenophobic views freely expressed by the various nationalities he soldiered with. Posted to the African Republic of Djibouti, Jennings was mercilessly bullied by his immediate superior, a Spanish corporal, and went over the hill. Captured by bounty hunters while wandering across the desert, he found life in jail preferable to active duty in the 2nd Parachute Regiment. Given a second chance, he accompanied the regiment to France on field maneuvers and took advantage of another opportunity to desert. Successful this time, he was subsequently arrested on forgery charges and served a nine-month sentence. There's nothing self-serving about this memoir: again and again its author casually reveals himself to have been a liar, thief and sexual vulture. The absence of value judgment in his book plus a natural writing talent render it hard to put down. Jennings now works in publishing in London.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The French Foreign Legion has always had a reputation for toughness and isolation from the ordinary world, with its promise of anonymity for volunteers and much-rumored esprit. Jennings, who joined the legion as escape from failure in the civilian world, tells us in this profane but outstandingly real description of his training and service in both Europe and North Africa. Jennings survived beatings and poor diet; in Djibouti he deserted, only to be captured by local tribesmen. On release from military prison he was rotated back to Corsica for a bizarre stint of drinking and chasing tourists that is described with as much humor as the training had horror. After more training he deserted again, this time back to his native England. A rough and tumble tale that gives serious insight into the mind of the professional soldier.
- Mel D. Lane, Sacramento, Cal.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Pocket; Reprint edition (March 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671728016
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671728014
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 3.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,197,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 26, 1998
Format: Paperback
Mr. Jennings not only deserted the Legion, but also gives a false impression and false facts about life in the legion. As a current legionaire and officer, I can honestly say (from our records) that Mr. Jennings did not even make it through our farm. He failed the physical agility assessment and was rated very low on all testing. If he had not had prior military experience - he would have never been accepted (as are 70% of all volunteers). HE ALSO STATED THAT HE RECEIVED TRAINING IN THE ORANGE - NOT SO.
The Legion, as stated by Mr. Jennings, is a tough life. But as not stated by the author, a very rewarding one. Not only for the invaluable training (I am a former US Marine), but also for the life-long friendships it brings along.
The author seems to think that all legionaires are drunken bully thieves (and some are), but the majority of us are hardworking infantry and special ops that go into countries when the US doesn't even send in their troops.
He speaks about being kicked and hit and yes there were certainly a few that I saw when I volunteered. What he fails to mention is that these are the guys that need it the most. The cut-ups (which is also contained in his file) which are here not to take it seriously.
There will always be Mr. Jenning's in the world who will write books (for monetary reward only) and call them THE THINGS NO-ONE ELSE HAS WRITTEN ABOUT, but for a real account maybe a real legionaire (not a deserter) should write the story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Andrew G. Teslicko on October 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The reviews of this book are almost entertaining as the book. Having been there circa 1981/82, Fort Nogent, Aubange, Orange First Calvary basic training, and Corsica, , and deserted myself,(who cares, it's only the French), I can tell you first hand that it wasn't quite as brutal from what I recall, but there was creative sadism and brutality of this spirit. I don't recall anybody losing any teeth, but then again, I didn't get a good look at the guys who tried to desert basic training and got caught. We just never saw them again. The training at Canjuers was as described.There was some kind of thing you could pick up there which just ate away at the flesh. I think they called it the mange or something of that sort. ONe thing that I don't think was mentioned was what TERRIBLE shots the French were. I always use to envision my regiment being ran over by charging peasants with pitchforks. The books real, but if you weren't there yourself, I don't think you can envision the desperation, the pain, and the adventure that it offers initially. Unfortunately, after training, without a war to then fight, it does become tedious, monotonous, and sick. The books a pretty realistic and decent account of life in the legion. The moments of Glory unfortunately are decades in between.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
If Jenning is lying about military life, as some of my fellow reviewers insist, I can only wonder why such accusations aren't made against the "hup-ho GI Joe!" school of military authors, such as Tom Clancy. I was in the Reagan/Lehman Navy, where we lived daily with filth and humiliation. Whenever "Top Gun" played on our ship's tv system, I swear we'd ride lower in the water, so heavy was the level of ruefulness and irony in reponse. And if my fellow reviewers take Jennings to task for being a "loser" and deserter, or his memoir as a portrait of only sadists and perverts, I ask them in which different army can they boast service, led by the author of "Caesar's Gaul" and manned by the characers from "Sergeant Rock?" I thank Mr. Jennings for telling some of the ugly truths about military life, my gratitiude for which he shares with James Jones and Richard McKenna. Also, for writing an autobiography that, unlike most, couldn't bear the alternate title "Me the Hero," Jennings earns some of the same respect I have for Anthony Burgess.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Parry on September 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
My best friend is a Staff Sgt. in the Legion. He found it to be very accurate and indeed some of his anechdotes, (usually told when very drunk), are even more harrowing than in the book. Being hit in the face is apparently the most effective way to learn French. That is how he learned, in the Legion, aged 18. It took a year. I gave him a copy of Mouthful of Rocks in 1990. It is one of the few belongings he has bothered to keep over the years. The author holds back when dealing with his own involvemnet with prostitution, yet like most drunks, fondly recalls his drunken days like old war stories. He challenges you to have no respect for him, yet never looks for pity.
It is as much a journey to a alchoholic's rock bottom as it is into the fraternity of the Legion.
You have to be slightly nuts to join the Legion. You can't fail to be nuts by the time you leave/escape.
If you read this book and still want to join the Legion - you're a maniac. Which means you'd fit right in.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Marco Antonio Abarca VINE VOICE on December 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The Legion has always taken pride in that it takes the scum of the earth and through keen discipline turns them into legionaires. The author of this book was a self admitted petty thief and criminal when he entered the legion. This book chronicles his story from his drunken days in England to his entrance into the elite paratroop regiment unit to his desertion. Although, I have never served in the Legion, my sense is that his book is very honest. Jenning's book is a wonderful contrast to Simon Murray's "Legionaire".
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