Book Review: Biltmore Oswald The Diary of a Hapless Recruit

Biltmore Oswald The Diary of a Hapless Recruit

Biltmore Oswald The Diary of a Hapless Recruit by Thorne Smith

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


2.5★

Ugh. Originally the page count on GR was around 85. By the time I figured out it was much longer than that I was at around the 60% mark. I made it to 66% before -heh- abandoning ship!

This book was originally a series of comic stories written for the Naval Reservist journal The Broadside while Smith was in the Navy about raw recruit Biltmore Oswald. My (admittedly free) copy doesn’t make this clear, so I was baffled by the disjointed approach. My copy also is shown as being illustrated & I think maybe Dick Dorgan’s black & white sketches may have given the story more charm. Frustratingly though the table of illustrations is on my copy, but not the illustrations themselves.

“‘Do you enlist for foreign service?’ He snapped. ‘Sure,’ I replied, ‘It will all be foreign to me”
Source of cartoon:Gutenberg

This flippant yet, naive exchange was so typical of the later works Smith became famous for. Smith was my parents’ favourite humorous writer – that in itself was pretty funny if you knew my parents who were both really straightlaced . Just talking about the skeleton dog in

Skin and Bones by Thorne Smith

scratching for nonexistent fleas would reduce my mother to tears of helpless mirth!

But this first work of Smith’s while riotously funny at the beginning (the scenes with Oswald and his mother reminded me -a lot! – of Private Pike and his overprotective mother in Dad’s Army – right down to the scarf!)

I may download the Gutenberg copy (which does have the illustrations) at some point and try again. Luckily I have already read some of Smith’s funniest works (he is best known for Topper, but some of his other books are better) and know Smith was only in his early twenties when he wrote this.

I wouldn’t make this a first Smith read. Try Skin & Bones or The Glorious Pool first.

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