REVIEW: Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

If you’ve read my previous post, which detailed my thoughts on this novel when I was only half-way through, then you’ll know that I held Catch-22 in high esteem. And even now, a couple of days after I finished, I’m feeling a little bit mind-blown. Admittedly, it doesn’t take much for my little cranium to be blown, but this book produced several hang-on-what-the-hell-just-happened moments – often completely out of the blue.

I was a little sceptical when I started reading Catch-22, because war novels are really not my genre – unless you count Private Peaceful and War Horse in that – and I only bought it because of the satire element. And boy, is there a helluva lot of satire. Even the names of the characters were engineered to make me laugh… Where else would there be a major called Major Major Major?

Yossarian could run into the hospital whenever he wanted to because of his liver and because of his eyes; the doctors couldn’t fix his liver condition and couldn’t meet his eyes each time he told them he had a liver condition. He could enjoy himself very much in the hospital, just as long as there was no one really very sick in the same ward.

This isn’t your average war novel. For a start, Heller’s descriptive powers are enough to make me curl up into a ball and cry at the lack of my own (and, of course, the way in which he handles certain events in the novel). Then, there’s less of your bog-standard big-war-big-explosion-someone-dies-everyone-wins scenes. It’s more let’s-draw-out-the-saddest-parts-and-see-how-many-people-we-can-get-sobbing  -and yes, I was one of the aforementioned sobbing party. The issue wasn’t the lead up to the inevitable deaths; it was the fact that the deaths were sprung upon me without warning. Much like what death is actually like.

Okay, I need to stop grovelling about Heller’s way with words. And the fact that this novel is so savage. And how I had to stifle my sniggers using my duvet. And how I had to stop reading it on the page because of my downright weird half-laughing-half-crying facial expressions. But quite frankly, you need to read Catch-22 – for the things that it reveals about authority, war, and determination alone.

Or you can just read it because of the business ideas that Milo’s syndicate produces. They’re in a class of their own.

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