top of page
  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Portrait of a War Artist by John Gillies

Portrait of a War Artist is many things. It’s a memoir of the author’s time serving in the Vietnam War as part of the Otago University Medical Company, which includes photographs from the time. It’s also an art book with sketches and paintings created during this time in Vietnam, which gives a fascinating glimpse of the Vietnamese people and landscape during this infamous conflict. The text is succinct and moving and brings to life John’s extraordinary time working in this conflict when so many ordinary lives were violently disrupted.

John’s memoir details rocket attacks, Agent Orange and the daily dilemmas of treating the injured and unwell. He shares the story of one Vietnamese captain suffering abdominal pain and being prescribed a week's work of tablets. An hour later, he was back complaining of dizziness and vomiting – he had taken all 104 tablets! But many other stories are not so humorous: parents unable to afford to stay with their children in the hospital, patients scared to stay in the hospital in case they caught TB, bedridden patients with no relatives who were unable to be fed…

John's narrative is poignant, at times humorous, and always insightful, offering a glimpse of the local people's lives at this time. John is a talented artist, and this handsome hardback will be enjoyed by many people of all ages. The NZ version of MASH, Portrait of a War Artist, is a unique and captivating book.

Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Quentin Wilson Publishing



bottom of page