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Official Review: When Wars Were Won by Hugh Aaron

Please use this forum to discuss historical fiction books. Common definitions define historical fiction as novels written at least 25-50 years after the book's setting.

Official Review: When Wars Were Won by Hugh Aaron

Post Number:#1 by CatInTheHat
» 16 Nov 2016, 11:04

[Following is the official OnlineBookClub.org review of "When Wars Were Won" by Hugh Aaron.]

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4 out of 4 stars
Review by CatInTheHat
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When Wars Were Won: Love and Friendship in Time of War by Hugh Aaron brings the heart of war into your mind. Getting to know Hal, a young Seabee (Navy construction battalion member), as he experiences life in the Navy during World War II, is a very emotional experience for one’s heart. Although it is a fictional account, it’s clear that the author was diligent in showing the realities of war.

When Wars Were Won is written in journalistic format from the viewpoint of protagonist Hal Arnold. The story follows Hal from the time his naval battalion heads off to sea during WWII until the war ends, along with some closure forty years later. The story is focused on Hal, as well as his two good friends and fellow Seabees, Barry Fortune and Billiard Ball. Fortune and Ball are older and more experienced men, whom offer friendship to Hal, as well as mentoring him in very different ways.

The story starts forty years after the end of WWII with Hal returning to the Philippines but then quickly moves back to the time of war. Most of the story is focused during the actual war period, but then it returns to forty years later as it concludes. Doing so brings some closure as well as some intentional loose ends as to where some of the characters ended up after the war.

As the ship cross the sea, the men start to get to know those around them. Hal meets the amazing Barry Fortune early on. He wonders how this enlisted Seabee has managed to have so many officer level privileges and how he knows more about what’s going on than most of those above him. How does he know where they are headed when the ship’s command does not know yet? Fortune seems to be able to do any favor anyone needs. Billiard Ball is more laidback and encourages Hal to be wary of men like Fortune. Much of the crossing sets the background for the relationships moving forward.

The story takes Hal, Fortune and Ball to Finschafen and Hollandia, New Guinea, as well as Mindoro Island and Subic Bay, Philippines. Camps are built and rebuilt after skirmishes and battles. Hal grows up as he encounters death and the ugliness of war. He also learns about the need of friendship and what is important in life. He is sometimes surprised at how that changes during the war. Hal’s friendship with Fortune has its difficulties as Fortune’s ulterior motives beyond the war come into play. Fortune’s love life is often perplexing to Hal, as Fortune often asks for his help in dealing with his love back home, especially after meeting a special woman in the Philippines.

Love and relationships of that nature are an underlying theme at times, but the actual war is the forefront of the story for a good bit of the story. That is until Hal and Billiard meet Anita and her family, as well as the people of a small town in the Philippines. Seeing how they integrate themselves into this community, spending all of their free time there, living in a culture so different from their own plays a major part in their overall development as people. War is still there, but relationships become far more important. Watching the war end and its impact on all of them is interesting, as people do not always do what you expect of them. Seeing where they end up forty years later brings some surprises as well.

I rate this story 4 out of 4 stars. Watching these men evolve throughout the war is interesting and often brings unexpected revelations. This story would be a good read if you like war stories and watching people develop through life experiences. Note that there are some very graphic war scenes, as well as rape scenes, which some might find disturbing.

******
When Wars Were Won
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Re: Official Review: When Wars Were Won by Hugh Aaron

Post Number:#2 by anneloretrujillo
» 07 Jan 2017, 21:36

I love this time period! I don't usually read historical fiction. The WWII era is he only period I really enjoy. I think the use of a journalistic format is entertaining. Thank you for a great review!
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Re: Official Review: When Wars Were Won by Hugh Aaron

Post Number:#3 by CatInTheHat
» 08 Jan 2017, 23:03

anneloretrujillo wrote:I love this time period! I don't usually read historical fiction. The WWII era is he only period I really enjoy. I think the use of a journalistic format is entertaining. Thank you for a great review!


For me, the journalistic formatting really helped me to feel like I was there, with the characters, and not an outsider.
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Re: Official Review: When Wars Were Won by Hugh Aaron

Post Number:#4 by SpiderDreamer1
» 10 Jan 2017, 12:04

Interesting review. Do you think focusing on the war itself made it stronger, or was there a more interesting story to be told in the present day?
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Re: Official Review: When Wars Were Won by Hugh Aaron

Post Number:#5 by CatInTheHat
» 10 Jan 2017, 14:15

SpiderDreamer1 wrote:Interesting review. Do you think focusing on the war itself made it stronger, or was there a more interesting story to be told in the present day?


The present day story was really used to draw out how the relationships evolved and the impact of the war on not just the immediate future but a more long term future. Both impacts on the involved societies and on personal relationships were demonstrated by including both the past and the future.
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Re: Official Review: When Wars Were Won by Hugh Aaron

Post Number:#6 by Insightsintobooks
» 10 Jan 2017, 22:58

I like this time period for historical fiction. I think it sounds interesting being that it is written from a journalistic viewpoint. Thank you for the review.
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Re: Official Review: When Wars Were Won by Hugh Aaron

Post Number:#7 by CatInTheHat
» 10 Jan 2017, 23:18

Insightsintobooks wrote:I like this time period for historical fiction. I think it sounds interesting being that it is written from a journalistic viewpoint. Thank you for the review.


Do you have any favorites from this era? I'm finding myself more interested in it over the past year.
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Re: Official Review: When Wars Were Won by Hugh Aaron

Post Number:#8 by bookowlie
» 05 Feb 2017, 10:10

Nice, insightful review! The impact of war on people over many years is an interesting topic.
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Re: Official Review: When Wars Were Won by Hugh Aaron

Post Number:#9 by CatInTheHat
» 05 Feb 2017, 10:26

bookowlie wrote:Nice, insightful review! The impact of war on people over many years is an interesting topic.


I think that impact is often underestimated, despite the fact that we know a lot more today about things such as PTSD.
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Re: Official Review: When Wars Were Won by Hugh Aaron

Post Number:#10 by bookowlie
» 05 Feb 2017, 23:18

I agree. I think many people who have PTSD don't seek help or they minimize the aftereffects when talking about it.
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Re: Official Review: When Wars Were Won by Hugh Aaron

Post Number:#11 by godreaujea
» 11 May 2017, 16:56

I find this time period so fascinating, and I love historical fiction. Thanks for the great review, I just might have to check it out!
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Re: Official Review: When Wars Were Won by Hugh Aaron

Post Number:#12 by CatInTheHat
» 11 May 2017, 17:47

godreaujea wrote:I find this time period so fascinating, and I love historical fiction. Thanks for the great review, I just might have to check it out!


It is an interesting story, both on the military and the relationship fronts. I still have a hard time calling the time period historical though, since both of my parents were born during WW2.
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Re: Official Review: When Wars Were Won by Hugh Aaron

Post Number:#13 by kandscreeley
» 12 May 2017, 14:57

This sounds like a pretty authentic story. It's not for me though. Good review, but I'll be avoiding it.
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Re: Official Review: When Wars Were Won by Hugh Aaron

Post Number:#14 by CatInTheHat
» 12 May 2017, 16:00

kandscreeley wrote:This sounds like a pretty authentic story. It's not for me though. Good review, but I'll be avoiding it.


Authentic is a very good way to describe this story. It felt very realistic, even though it was a work of fiction.
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