MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors by Richard Hooker

Summary: Basis of the movie and beloved TV show, and well mined by them both for ideas.

Every night my senior year of college MASH was on at 10 PM and was watched by whoever happened to be around.  Long before that I had seen most of the episodes, but it is a testament to its quality that college kids were devoted fans to a show that started the year before most of us were born.

Last week the novel was the Audible deal of the day so I picked it up.  And mostly I enjoyed it.

There were three major problems with the book.  First, it is really a collection of short stories that are losely connected more than a coherent novel that has a real plot and story arc.  The benefit to that for the TV show and movie is that the book generated a number of episodes.  The second problem is related to the fact that pretty much nothing in the book has not been turned into a TV show or was in the movie.  The third problem is that while the wacky antics of doctors provide some humor amist the horrors of war, there is not a real understanding of why these three characters are different from those around them that are fighting the war.

Like the show, the strength of the book is that there is enough humor to keep you laughing and enough seriousness to help you understand the horrors that are real. The readers get the farce of the regular army and we can see how ridiculous it is to pretend that war is normal.  But why is it only these three that can see through the farce.

Hooker is not a great writer, but the characters are fairly well drawn and the fact that the majority of his charaters appear in the movie and TV show relatively unchanged shows that his characterization is the strenght of the novel.

Half way through the book I considered abandoning it because I was a bit bored.  But the book is short and I finished it as much because of my love of the show as because of my enjoyment of the book.

If you loved the TV show and/or movie, it might be interesting to pick up to understand othe origins, but I think it is a case where the movie/TV show actually is better than the original book source material.

MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook


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