Author: Chris Kyle (with Jim DeFelice and Scott McEwan)
Published: 2012 (this edition 2014)
Having seen the movie adaptation, I decided to read ‘American Sniper’, the autobiography ofavy SEAL Chris Kyle- the most prolific American Sniper ever. It was interesting to read a book on war, a subject I have mixed feelings about. I accept the occasional necessity of violence, but would often like to think there’s an alternative. I’m not sure this is a book one can ‘enjoy’ due to its bleak subject matter, but in many ways it feels like quite a ‘necessary’ read that touches upon some relevant issues. It is particularly poignant because it depicts very recent history.
It wouldn’t feel right to review this book without addressing the fact that many reviewers of both the novel and the film have objected to the way it depicts Iraq as a completely evil nation. Personally, I disliked the way Kyle and his fellow soldiers insisted on referring to the enemy as ‘savages’ simply because the opposed the US. Whilst I understand that Sadam Hussein was a tyrant and many insurgents were extremely violent individuals, Kyle didn’t seem to comprehend that those opposing him and his comrades were also fighting for what they believed in, regardless of how warped their beliefs may have been. I understand how easy it would be to feel bitter about Iraqis in his situation, however he does seem to take this to extremes. Furthermore, I disagree with the way he seems to believe being a Christian can justify anything and that being a Muslim automatically makes you somehow inferior. The enemy soldiers are seen as targets rather than people. That being said, I must admire Kyle for his honesty in expressing these feelings.
With regards to the military aspects of ‘American Sniper’, it can’t be denied that the book provides an informative insight into a very secretive branch of the US military. It made me admire service men a women, as I know I’d never have the courage to do what they do on a daily basis. Similarly, although Kyle’s gifts may not have been conventional, it can’t be be denied that he was a talented, yet modest, man. Several of the stories included in the book really bring home the horrors of war, although the most moving parts of the book are when Kyle reveals how his experiences affected his home life. Some military terminology did go over my head, but I understood most of it. If you’re interested in guns, which I’m not, then you’ll love the descriptions of the author’s favoured weapons.
Overall, the main thing readers will take from this book is a reminder that wars can have a very real affect on the lives of those who fight in them and should thus be avoided wherever personal. I found myself feeling more interested in the story of the war as a whole than Kyle’s life story although his death, which occurred shortly after the publication of this book, really was a tragedy. This is a war memoir people should read, if only to make politicians think before sending out our troops. It is interesting to hear an opinion of the politics of the war from someone who actually fought in it. In this instance, one man’s stories are moving enough to show the impact of a whole war.
Rating: **** (4/5)