Someone recommended this book to me some time ago - I can't recall who though; it might have been one of the RAF guys. Suffice to say, I bought it and I have stayed up late into the wee small hours to finish reading it tonight. It is a very gripping book about a group of SAS soldiers who go into Iraq during the Gulf War in the early 90's.
It isn't a pretty book by any means - it looks very out of place on my blog - and its not the kind of thing I would normally choose to read. It is a gritty, violent and bloody memoir of actual events that had me scared to turn the page sometimes and made me wonder why anyone would recommend it to a Jane Austen fan???
But my inner warrior princess absolutely loved it! I was sucked in from the first page and taken on a heart-pounding adventure into a world I have never before encountered. The author really allows the reader access into the bubble of the SAS - you feel like you are a part of it, one of the lads, a silent member of the team. You share all their experiences, which is very exciting at the beginning - not so much fun when they get captured though, or when they 'need to go pooh-pooh'!
I'm not going to lie - I found this a tough book to read. It is well written and action packed; but sometimes it all got a bit too much and I had to put it down for a day or two. It made me anxious, weepy and gave me bad dreams. It describes various ways in which the author was tortured. This was really hard for me to get through, because by the time the capture has taken place, as a reader I had already connected with this man. I wanted to help him, rescue him, or at least stand beside him so he didn't have to endure it all alone. It was miserable reading at that point and not the best bedtime story I've ever had. I just had to keep telling myself that if he could manage to live through it - which he obviously did as he went on to write the book - then I could bear to read through his experiences. I didn't skip ahead, not once. I'm quite proud of myself for that as I really don't enjoy reading about violence. But I can see why this book was necessary and why it has become such an important part of military literature.
There are some lighter moments though and a good deal of humour, usually in the most dire situations! It made me laugh and gave me great insight into mental resilience - apparently you just have to keep telling yourself that you're winning, no matter how much trouble you find yourself in. It's a good tip. Obviously it worked because he survived and came home safe, if a little bashed up.
My favourite parts of the book were the Americans in the next cell, getting everyone into trouble by asking for a Big Mac and the descriptions of the US Air-force and RAF planes doing competitive tricks on the homeward journey. That was great fun to read. I still don't know what the difference is between a barrel roll and a victory roll, but hey, maybe I'll find that out in another book by the same author - I bought two and the other one is waiting in the wings. And I loved the part when McNab claims that reading books changed his life - as a life-long bookworm and an author myself, his declaration was like mother's milk to me. I think I fell a little bit in love with him then. I was like "Yes! He loves books!!!"
Towards the end of the book McNab addresses the issue of PTSD - at this point I began to understand the recommendation, because I certainly found it useful. He explains what PTSD is, what the symptoms are, how it can affect people years after the event and how the general medical profession simply isn't there yet when it comes to any real level of understanding it. All things I can relate to. Also, as a soon-to-be qualified counsellor, a soldiers take on this topic is great inside information for me, especially for when working with veterans and active servicemen and women, which is still my long term goal. I've bookmarked those pages so that I can find them again for easy reference.
All in all I enjoyed the majority of this memoir. The torture scenes are difficult to read, but the adventure was a blast. I will certainly read the second memoir I bought by the same author - though not right away...I need to read something pink and pretty to soothe my anxious mind before I get into any more of Andy McNab's gritty adventures! I can feel a reread of Pride and Prejudice coming on...