Dispatches is the story of the Vietnam told by various snapshots and stories of encounters as seen by Michael Herr. I shall begin by informing readers that this book shouldn’t be read if you’re looking for a narrative of the war and various facts and battles etc. Instead it shows how the war affected the people there on the ground, the faces behinds the statistics and numbers. It describes how Vietnam affected these ordinary soldiers and people and how it altered himself forever.
The book isn’t particularly structured or chronological. Instead it reaches its mission through little narratives of particularly interesting and frightening soldiers and people involved in the Vietnam War. Some parts drag on, and without much background to the scenarios, as a reader I was occasionally lost. But in a way this helps the reader, it almost mirrors what the author himself must have been feeling, disorientated and amazed.
The snapshots of individuals and sticky situations he was in can toy with your emotions. In just one of these little narratives you can feel the whole spectrum from anger, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness and everything else in between. This is why I’d recommend this book. There are plenty of other distinguished books on the Vietnam War that provide detailed accounts of the strategies and the politics of the war, but none I have read so far describe what the war was like on the ground as well as Michael Herr does. If you want to understand what the war meant for an ordinary soldier then this book is for you.