Review – Susan O’Neill’s Don’t Mean Nothing
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of discovering Susan O’Neill via her collection of essays in Calling New Delhi For Free and so I entered Don’t Mean Nothing with a spring in my step and a smile on face. The smile soon disappeared. Not due to the quality of the writing, I’ll get to that in a minute, but because of the powerful subject matter.
Don’t Mean Nothing isn’t a collection of fun and quirky memories it is a book of fictional recollections from a nurse who served in Vietnam during the war. The female perspective is astonishing and I really wish I’d read more tales like this before, instead of the men with guns stories we normally have served to us. The stories show the brutal reality of conflict and how, not just being a woman, but being in the medical profession was completely different to protection and killing that the soldiers mantra carried. The nurses and doctors had to fix whoever was on their table. Friend or foe didn’t matter, a life was there to be saved which was the polar opposite of the men with guns.
Drugs and alcohol, promiscuous sexual liaisons, and the breakdown of mental health is brash, dark, and real. Very, very, real, and alongside the conflict elements makes for an uncomfortable yet essential read. The different take on the troubles in Vietnam was as refreshing as it was daunting, and Susan O’Neill writes from the experience of being there herself.
Stunning. Brutal but stunning.
***** 5 Stars!!!