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Shrapnel: A Memoir Hardcover – May 14, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; Original edition (May 14, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062257374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062257376
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #688,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Wharton is exceptionally gifted.” (John Fowles)

About the Author

A self-described painter who writes, William Wharton is the pen name for the author of two memoirs—Houseboat on the Seine and Ever After—as well as eight novels—Birdy, Dad, A Midnight Clear, Scumbler, Pride, Tidings, Franky Furbo, and Last Lovers. His works have been acclaimed worldwide and have been translated into over fifteen languages.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ron2BSure on June 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
William Wharton, author of a number of successful novels including "Birdy," strings together a series of personal anecdotes about his experiences in boot camp and as a soldier in England, France and Germany during World War II, in which he is not ashamed to admit fear and cowardice and brutality, not only on his own part but on the part of the military in general. The anecdotes are told in a somewhat brusque and arid manner, and although some of them are interesting, there is nothing terribly unusual about his experiences. He is honest in admitting how terrified he was, indeed how terrified many of the soldiers were, and in deploring rape and the murder of innocent German captive soldiers. Mr. Wharton felt ashamed to admit some of his experiences and actions during the war to his children, and I believe this book has only just been published posthumously. It paints a picture of war as hell, as something barbarous and demeaning. It's a quick read -- 263 pages of rather large type. Can probably be read and digested at a single sitting. Here is the tale of his being called upon to become a mapmaker in England, an advance scout parachuted into France ahead of the invasion of Normandy, and of various escapades advancing on the German front lines. In the end, his numerous experiences being hit by shrapnel and hospitalized, indeed shrapnel itself, become a metaphor for the pain and failure most of us must endure in life. And he ends with: "I hope my kids enjoy these tales and won't lose too much respect for me. That would be like a land mine." For those seeking a more vivid and horrifying depiction of warfare, particularly war in the Pacific during World War II, seek out "The Day the Century Ended," a novel by Francis Irby Gwaltney.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David A. Dresser on September 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Full disclosure: I knew this author and spent considerable time with him in discussion of many things.
His style here is terse but honest. I like the form and this means to get at diverse truths. The connections made between men in the military are not much like other connections. Mr. Wharton reveals his own mind in offering insights into other minds.
I think that Shrapnel may suffer a bit, as a literary work, in comparison with Mr. Whartons other books, but it is a valuable contribution and permits a reader to know the man. I also served in the military, albeit during a time of peace. My acquaintances were enough like the ones in this memoir to offer me a sense of familiarity.
I am glad to have read this.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This memoir was recommended to me by a highly decorated Marine Vietnam War veteran; after reading, I have even more admiration for he and his fellow "ground-pounders".
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
William Wharton is one of a small handful of writers to emerge from "the Greatest Generation" (I imagine he would have bridled at the term) to have wrested some sort of cosmic insight from the horror of his experiences in Europe during the Second World War. He was too reclusive and never prolific enough to get the kind of attention of a Kurt Vonnegut or a Norman Mailer, but his deceptively simple writing exhibits the same sort of profound humanistic truth as "Father Kurt's" writing.

The premise of this book is that Wharton would sometimes tell his children stories of his wartime adventures as an American GI, but that there were certain tales he held back from telling the children, in order to spare them from hearing something Wharton considered too gruesome, absurd, or somehow shameful to tell kids. All of the stories he didn't tell them, he now tells the reader. The book is a series of vignettes, but there is nothing episodic about the work. Each functions as either a self-contained short story or as a chapter in part of a larger story, but not a moment is wasted and the read is never dull. My personal favorite anecdotes include the one about the Hitler Youth with their homemade flamethrowers setting fire to all of the loot the GIs stole, as well as one story about how Wharton and a farm boy found a plane that had been shot out of the sky, which they then proceeded to repair and fly several hundred miles!

Wharton was a genius, an American treasure who was too humble and ultimately wise to seek the acclaim that was due him.
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