Friday, 24 December 2010

You call it Vietnam; I call it Iraq

How Can You Mend This Purple Heart by Terry Gould

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the most terrifying things about life for me is that a child can be damaged at an early age and then is mutilated or disfigured for life. That is what Stacey Danson's 'Empty Chairs' is all about - being prostituted from the age of three in her case - but it is also the gist of 'How Can You Mend This Purple Heart?' where young men of 20 have stood on a landmine - or their mate has - and they have lost one, two or even three limbs. One minute they are lithe young men at the peak of their physical prowess, the next they are angry cripples, in this case publicly derided for taking part in one of the most unpopular wars in history.

This is an extraordinary book for the way it describes how these Vets came to terms with their appalling injuries. Apparently during the First World War only one person ever survived a triple amputation. During the current occupation of Iraq I am told there is one a week, so this book is still highly topical.

It reads a bit like a theatre piece or TV series and, sure enough, next year it will be premiered in a playhouse in Pittsburgh.

It is also outraging and funny. You may well laugh and sneer until you cry.

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