I’d never read a book about war. War stories reminded me of history class at school, which I never had much time for. What could you possibly learn from the details of war? I understood that war was bad and that should be avoided, but other than that I really wasn’t interested.
If I’d known Catch 22 was a war story I probably wouldn’t have put it next on my list for the 100 book challenge. I was familiar with the ‘catch 22’ concept – where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t – but I didn’t know its origins. So it was time to take that plunge and I opened to page 1 of the Heller’s classic.
When I realised that it was a book about war, I flicked forward through the pages and discovered that (groan) the whole thing was about war!
But by then the characters had me hooked and I couldn’t help but read on.
The characters drive this story from beginning to end. Each chapter is named after a different character and the story loosely follows that person’s perspective for that chapter. Some events are repeated in chapters from different perspectives and by doing so they slowly and subtly reveal the truth.
The main character, Yosssarian, is an officer working on bomber planes over Italy in World War II. The author, Joseph Heller, served in WWII and wrote this book upon his return. By following Yossarian’s story, he cleverly highlights the ironies of war and the constant waste of time and lives that happens as a result.
When I was nearing the end of the book, we left for an 8-day overseas holiday to Hong Kong. In my efforts to pack light I left Catch 22 at home, with the intention to finish it on my return.
But I thought about it constantly while I was away. So much so that I ended up downloading the book in Hong Kong just so I could finish those last few chapters.
I never thought I would get so hooked on a book about war. Where 8 days away from it was too much to bear.
Perhaps I should’ve listened more in those school history classes after all.
In July 2014 I set myself the challenge to finish 100 must-read books before I die. For my ongoing tally click here