Friday, June 12, 2009

Brothers In Battle, Best Of Friends - William Guarnere, Edward Heffron, & Robyn Post

Summary: "To single out one or two of [the] Screaming Eagles as the Most Super-Duper Paratrooper or the Best Source for a free beer on VE day would be a fool's errand. But to fail to single out Bill Guarnere and Babe Heffron would overlook a grand entertainment and a stirring inspiration.

"'Wild Bill' and 'Babe.' Even their names beg the telling of their tale, like great ball players from the 1920's, or legendary lawmen--or outlaws--of the Old West." (photo from Summary from back of the book.)

My Review: This is the fourth book relating to the Band of Brothers I've read. My husband is an enthusiast and friends with Don Malarky, a paratrooper mentioned in this book. He forewarned me that this book was more graphic than the other three I'd read. I was therefore prepared for the difference between this book and the others.

If you know the story of the Band of Brothers, the storyline follows a familiar route. The main difference I found is Robyn Post (the writer) basically used dictated conversations from the two men to make the entire book. It is conversational, which makes it easy to read. But I'd almost say it is too conversational because at times it is harder to read with thoughts left unexplained or too vague. The two main characters, Wild Bill and Babe, are both from South Philly and speak with a strong dialect that Robyn Post allows the reader to experience firsthand. A positive aspect to this is you feel transported back in time to when people said things like, "foist," instead of first and, "why, soitainly!" instead of certainly. The main characters endear themselves quickly to the reader simply by their strong and unique personalities.

Wild Bill, name given by friends and rightly so, is frank and open about what really happened during the war. He doesn't spare himself, nor anyone else, the truth of what happened. There are vivid descriptions of the horrific nature of war (body parts hanging from trees and brains in a stream) and his own promiscuous behavior with the many 'Broads' he charmed. But he also evokes from those who knew him, whether from personal acquaintance or from reading this book, an intense awe at his concern and care of those around him. He held together his unit, kept men as safe as war allows, and continued to keep his men together after the war. His optimism in all situations, whether saving a fellow soldier or lying wounded and bleeding in the snow, is heroic; it kept other soldiers upbeat. He had a way of making all those with him happier and safer.

Babe endears himself differently. Not quite as flamboyant, nor flashy, Babe is constant, loyal, and true. He and Bill, in some ways, are unlikely friends--Babe was raised a strict Catholic. Babe also didn't want leadership. Bill came across leadership naturally despite his desire to not have it. Babe was the great supporting role.

My favorite aspect to the book is the way it portrays the deep, lasting friendships made during the war in this unique group of soldiers. They have a bond unlike any I've ever known. It's something to admire and hard to comprehend.

If you're interested in a new perspective on the Band of Brothers, one that gives a very real, honest confessional of how many were killed and by whom, give this book a shot. These two best friends are hilarious; they chide each other constantly. I appreciated the honesty and felt this book portrayed the war accurately. Having read a victim's perspective I felt this book gave the reader a less glamorized version of war. (Not that the other books by the Band of Brothers soldiers glamorize war. They are just more guarded about what is shared, therefore inadvertently making the war seem less grotesque to the reader.)

My Rating: 4 Stars

If I had to sum the book up in one phrase: A moving story about war, friendship, sacrifice and change.

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