Cherry

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

The most interesting thing about this book for me was the author and his willingness to tell his story, even the ugly parts.
I did not particularly like the writing style but I liked the honesty and pure Americanness of the story, with extremely flawed characters living in worse environments in precarious conditions and how that just continues to pull them down until they hit rock bottom and how to go from there.
Thank you to NetGalley and Jonathan Cape for this ARC.
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This book was one of a kind. Told by a completely endearing grey character, this follows Nico's decent and how he came to be imprisoned. The writing style was very different to anything I have every read before and I adored it. There was such an unrefined and natural voice to the book that completely sucked me in. I finished this book in a couple of hours and would completely recommend.
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There are few novels that make you want to dip your toe into the murky waters of crime, but this is one of them. The prologue starts with a heist. 
And then chapter one goes back in time to the freshman years. 

Politically the message was so strong throughout the middle of the book set in Iraq. Why are we sending young men to war? 

The last third was set is the US after the long stint in Iraq, and seen through the eyes of junkie. A lot of his behaviour was reprehensible yet it was told with such candor and charm!

I could see this being made into a television series or a film. 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Thank you so much the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary electronic copy in return for an honest review.
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OK, this is not the book for me. Maybe it was the wrong time, maybe I just couldn't get into it, but it was relentlessly bleak, sweary and full of desperately unappealing characters. The thing with a book like this is that everyone comes to it with the narrative framework already in place; we know it's written by someone who experienced all these things, is currently in prison, and suffered PTSD as a result of his time with the army in Iraq. So where do we draw the line between autobiography and autobiographical fiction? In this case, I don't know.

There were occasional glimpses of good writing, some nice punchy sentences, and the parts of the book set in Iraq did feel genuine and were decently done. But no, I just didn't need this. I appreciate that many others who have reviewed the book have got much more out of it than I have, and I would never want to put people off from making their own minds up, but I just have to put this one down to experience and move on.
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Anyone offended by sex, drugs, swearing and general bad behaviour should walk away now because this is a raw, honest and authentic account of a certain type of masculinity. What makes this so readable is the vivid and ferocious energy of the narrative voice which zings off the page. Walker has *something* that puts neat plots and nice characters in the shade: this is big and bad and bold - and I loved it!
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One of the things that drew me to this novel was how it was written. Nico Walker has two years remaining of his prison sentence and wrote this book on a prison typewriter. A young man joins the army after leaving school and witnesses some terrible things. When he returns home, him and his wife become addicted to opiods and he starts robbing banks to fund their habit. I read this one quite quickly and found it sufficiently interesting and gripping and quite well written.
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This is a raw and visceral account of a young man from his schooldays through his distressing experiences of drug abuse and war. Written in the first person as he thinks and speaks, the unnamed protagonist tells his tale with acceptance and dark humour.

Despite the horrors and atrocities he witnesses and instigates, he has a level of sensitivity that often sits as a paradox. He sees the brutality and futility of war, the practicalities of dealing with corpses that have been the victims of gunshot or bombs, for example, and yet he still feels sympathy for the feral dogs as they are shot out of boredom. Awkward, vegetarian and loyal to his wife. In spite of his crassness he is rather likeable.

'Cherry' is the word given to the new recruits in the army and it means new and therefore inexperienced. The 'cherry' theme is carried through as young people find ways to deal with their grown-up lives - war, relationships and debt. For a while drugs are the answer: 'There was nothing better than to be  young and on heroin.' The part dealing with buying and taking drugs does drag a bit though.

The pace generally is good with a mix of chapter length and snappy sentences. The vocabulary is appropriate for a young man of his time, although I struggled with some parts not being an American from the early 2000s, but I got the gist. Always engaging and colourful.

This is a powerful, disturbing and original work that penetrated my dreams at night. Not a desirable effect but a compliment to the book nonetheless. Tragic, realistic and yet shot through with optimism.

#Cherry #NetGalley
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Nico Walker is an army veteran who is in prison for armed robbery to support a drugs habit. And he’s written a novel about a man whose life is drifting, joins the army, gets a drug habit and gets arrested for armed robbery. Uncanny. 

My goodness this is a nihilistic book! There is no particular narrative direction, it is just aimless drift. A narrator who has a vague relationship with a woman called Emily and a life of drifting. For a short while there was an attempt to put structure on the life through the army, but that just led to drifting from one scene of chaos to another. Then, after the army, there’s more drifting. There isn’t even any sense of self-pity or self-preservation. It is just a myopic quest for immediate gratification and hang the consequences for anyone else. There isn’t even really much mention of other people; they are just incidental to the narrator’s pleasure-less quest for pleasure. 

The result, I’m afraid, is a novel that may be technically well written but feels repetitive and soulless. There’s no-one for the reader to engage with; there’s no quest; there’s not even any surprise at the outcome. There’s profanity and violence which might fire up some readers, but it all felt as though it was being viewed through a fuzzy lens or told through a prison telephone. It didn’t ever feel immediate.

And one of the most disconcerting things about Cherry is that having read it, it leaves almost no memory of anything in it.
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I'm at 3.5 stars for this one but I have rounded up cos, although there were far too many abbreviations and nicknames for things that I didn't quite understand and couldn't get from context and so I had to keep breaking off and looking things up so my reading of this book was not as fluid as I would have preferred, I did see the quality of the voice that was narrating this story to me. I'm all for learning new things but not as any as I had to face here.
As the MC's life mirrors the author's quite closely, I am not sure how much of the story contained within this book is fact and which is fiction or embellishments, even given the author's disclaimer at the end. But, I read it with fiction in mind (maybe faction possibly...). 
First, it's not a happy story but there are some wonderfully funny things that happen. Occasionally a bit slapstick comedy, so overall it's not as depressing a read as I was expecting it to be. Originally I found the author's voice hard to get to grips with but, having persevered, I did eventually get into his occasionally disjointed way of telling his story. It reads more like someone in a pub is telling you his life, going off at tangents and getting distracted along the way, although the timeline is more or less constant. 
The war scenes were gruesome but I guess that reflects the whole "tell it how it is" feeling throughout the book. So much horrific stuff is told in a matter of fact way, maybe too much at times as this did tend to deaden the impact that maybe I should have got from what I was reading. 
When I first heard about this book I was thinking it would be a cause and effect read, addiction wise, but, as I soon got to realise that there is much much more to the MC's addiction to what happened in the army. The seeds were sown in his early life and, I guess, joining the army would be a make or break for him. And, as the story unfolded, we see which direction that took him.
There's a lot of bad language in the book but I found that it spoke to the MC's character and, on occasion, state of mind, and definitely was justified along the way rather than injected in for shock's sake. 
Considering the author is still in prison at time of writing this review, and that he has already told his story, I am wondering what is next from him in his final few years there? Whether he will start a new book, does he even have more to say? Will he continue once he is out? Whatever life delivers up for him in the future, I wish him all the luck in the world that he can turn his life round and, maybe, write something else for me to read...
My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.
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