This is a new feature I’m trying. I may not have a book to share every week, but when I do, it’ll go live Thursday. This should give you plenty of time to find a good read to get you through the weekend.
By Richard Hooker
Before the movie and television series, this novel introduced such characters as Hawkeye Pierce, Trapper John, Radar O’Reilly, and Hot Lips Houlihan. In 1951 during the Korean War, Hawkeye and another doctor named Duke are assigned to the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Trapper John soon joins them, and the three live together in a tent they call the swamp, drinking and raising hell when they’re not operating on injured soldiers. Their excellent surgical skills improve the quality of care at MASH 4077.
According to the author, many doctors working in such hospitals were well trained but too young for the job. As a result, some broke down. Others, like Hawkeye, Duke, and Trapper, let off steam by drinking, engaging in sexual escapades, and pulling stunts. In the book, they sell photos of Trapper with a long beard and hair, passing him off as Christ, to raise money to send a Korean house boy to college in the U.S. They pretend to have flipped their lids in order to be sent to a nearby hospital for psychiatric evaluation, then spend their time in a brothel instead. They play in a corrupt football game with a team from another hospital.
This book was an Audible daily deal, and having once been a MASH fan in college, I snatched it up. I saw the movie years ago but don’t remember it as much as the TV series. I noticed many differences between that and the book.
For example, Frank Burns, a captain in the book, is a major in the TV series. In the book, Hawkeye is married, but Trapper is not. On TV, it’s the opposite. In the book, Col. Blake is a completely different character, and Col. Potter, B.J. Honeycut, Major Winchester, and Corporal Clinger don’t exist. The book portrays the 4077th MASH as having more doctors than the four in the television series.
Despite these differences, I enjoyed reading the book, laughing at all the doctors’ antics like I did when I saw them on television. It would have been really cool if it were read by Alan Alda, the actor who portrayed Hawkeye in the TV series, but the Audible narrator did a pretty good job of portraying each character. I like the way this book shows us the horrors of war but emphasizes the idea that in order to get through tough times, you have to have a sense of humor.