Monday, 7 February 2011

Book Review: Brute

The first of my birthday book selection to be read was Brute, The Life of Victor Krulak. Its a little odd that I read the biography before I read his own book First to Fight, but I've enjoyed Coram's writing style before and I wanted to give this book a good read.

Its a difficult one, Victor "Brute" Krulak is undeniably as interesting a character as Boyd (although his ideas were not as revolutionary outside of the USMC), he is in some ways less likable. For all that though the story of his life is extremely engaging and a fascinating study of how the Marine Corp has evolved since the Second World War, seen through the lens of one key figure's life.

The USMC is a particularly fascinating institution, always being driven to do more with less, it has evolved into an extremely effective and impressive institution. The fact it has remained under attack even in peacetime due to interservice rivalries, coming mostly from the Army, there is almost a sense of paranoia which comes across in this text quite palpably.

The spirit of the USMC, the "first to fight" attitude is also written large in every page, and although that is excellent and laudable, it means the book is a little too keen to champion the Corps, without focussing on the life of the protagonist.

The other slight problem, which the author notes, is that Krulak was often willing to twist, embellish or indeed plain make things up. Although we're all guilty of that from time to time, even Coram is forced to admit upon occasion that this might mean certain aspects of the book should be considered suspect. I dont for a minute believe that Coram didnt do his due diligence however, and I wouldnt say this overly detracts from the book.

I'm not sure I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed Boyd. Its a perfectly good read, but there is a strange sense of a lack of direction, as if the book doesnt know quite what it wants to be and do. Thats a shame, because there is a great story here, which occasionally gets lost in the details. Maybe thats just me being fussy though.

Overall, this is an engaging and enjoyable study of a fascinating and largely unrecognised character in US military history. I would thoroughly recomend taking the time to read it.

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