Haaretz review

By Ilene Prusher

May 23, 2016

A good war memoir never makes war look glamorous. Rather, it puts you in the shoes of the soldier or civilian at those incredible moments when life hangs by a thread, unpacks a few of the conflicting political forces at play and, ultimately, breaks your heart. It must, because you meet characters who will die, good people whose lives will be wrecked, and you eventually find yourself wondering, along with the narrator, whether there was any point to this bloody war in the first place.

“Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story,” a new memoir by writer Matti Friedman, manages to do all of that with prose that itself resembles a soldier’s body: lean and muscular, understated but elegant beneath the fatigues. “Pumpkinflowers” focuses on a war that bears no name and enjoys no monument. Anyone who lived in Israel during the 1990s will remember this conflict simply because of its association with the words retzuat bitachon (“security zone”) – a nine-mile-wide strip of land that Israel withdrew to in 1985 following its invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

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