I received this ARC from Publisher, Audiobook from publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Boots on the Ground by Elizabeth Partridge
Published by Penguin on April 10, 2018
Source: ARC from Publisher, Audiobook from publisher
★ "Partridge proves once again that nonfiction can be every bit as dramatic as the best fiction."*
America's war in Vietnam. In over a decade of bitter fighting, it claimed the lives of more than 58,000 American soldiers and beleaguered four US presidents. More than forty years after America left Vietnam in defeat in 1975, the war remains controversial and divisive both in the United States and abroad.
The history of this era is complex; the cultural impact extraordinary. But it's the personal stories of eight people—six American soldiers, one American military nurse, and one Vietnamese refugee—that create the heartbeat of Boots on the Ground. From dense jungles and terrifying firefights to chaotic helicopter rescues and harrowing escapes, each individual experience reveals a different facet of the war and moves us forward in time. Alternating with these chapters are profiles of key American leaders and events, reminding us of all that was happening at home during the war, including peace protests, presidential scandals, and veterans' struggles to acclimate to life after Vietnam.
With more than one hundred photographs, award-winning author Elizabeth Partridge's unflinching book captures the intensity, frustration, and lasting impacts of one of the most tumultuous periods of American history.
*Kirkus Reviews, starred review of Marching for Freedom
Pretty much everything I know about the history of the Vietnam War came from reading Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War. That book was totally fascinating and gave me a lot of background knowledge I was lacking. But I knew there was still so much to learn. So, when I heard about Boots on the Ground: America’s War on Vietnam I knew I wanted to check it out. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy, as well as a copy of the audiobook. I started this one on audio but, as is often the case, I ended up picking up the physical copy to finish it (I am so impatient sometimes!)
What really blew me away about Boots on the Ground was the way it really personalized the wartime experience for me. I’m not sure if that’s the right way to say it, but it’s what comes to mind. What I mean is that it made the experiences of the people who lived through the Vietnam War (at home and overseas) so much more real to me. I loved how Partridge covered a wide variety of experiences… not just soldiers, not just civilians, not just white people, not just men, not just Americans. It was really refreshing to see that.
I can only imagine how hard this book must have been to write. For Partridge and the people she interviewed. There were so many heartbreaking stories. The people interviewed were thinking back to a very difficult and traumatic time. I so admire their willingness to do so in order to help myself and teen readers get a better understanding of what it was like during that time. I think listening to the audiobook really made it more intense as well. I felt like I was sitting and listening to these people tell me their stories. I teared up more than once.
The final thing I want to mention is the inclusion of the bits between and after the stories. Partridge does a good job of setting the stage for what was going on politically – both what was shared with the media and what was happening behind the scenes. I had background knowledge because of Most Dangerous but students without this knowledge will still get a feel for what was happening. Also, I absolutely loved the chapter on the war memorial. So much I didn’t know!
Boots on the Ground is a really powerful book that you need to experience for yourself. I am so glad I read it. I immediately ordered it for my school library and hope to include it in literature circles as well. An important read.
Audiobook Notes: I loved it. The narrator is great and it was really a great way to hear the stories of the people featured. It felt very conversational. Highly recommend.