Catch 22 Review

Catch 22 Review - Probably the cleverest and funniest book I've read, but possibly one of the hardest to get through!

Most people have a good idea what "Catch 22" means; few know that it's taken from this very clever, anti war novel by Joseph Heller.

Many, many books & films have set out to glorify war. Heller does the opposite by showing the stark reality, cruelty & fear of war.

It's certainly not an easy read and you'll need to get through the first 30% before you can start to enjoy this amazing novel.

The Plot

Catch 22 Review

A group of American Airmen are on the fictional island of Pianosa, near Italy, in 1943 during World War 2. Heller explores the  thoughts, actions, feelings, fears, hopes etc. of the Airmen in a frightening, abnormal setting when they react to events around them in a totally different way from the way they would react at home in peace time.

They lie, they cheat, they trivialise in order to survive. They panic about the number of completed missions & at all times, the reader ponders on a variety of themes covered in the novel.


Catch 22 Review

The characters are numerous & are mostly very funny even though most of it is unintentional. The reader can be moved to tears as Heller tells us about their innermost fears far from home in war torn Europe. We know they would mostly never behave at home in the way they behave here. The goal posts are always being changed for them.


Catch 22 Review

1.  Heller, through differing situations, explores how we interpret insanity & craziness. This is a major theme in the novel & Heller comes back to it several times. 

2. He highlights the ridiculousness of bureaucracy  & looks at how the trivial & pettiness assume importance in these circumstances.
3. Heller also questions religious faith as well as heroism.
4. He makes us think about the interpretation of the title of his book; it isn't as straightforward as it would appear at first.
5. And above all, we are aware of the satire in the novel.

Book Club Questions

1. How would you describe the humour in the book?

2. Do you see some of the men as wimps as they try every trick in the book to get out of missions & show no enthusiasm  for the     actual War effort?


3. Do you think Yossarian & other characters would behave in the same way back home?

4. Do you have a favourite character?

5. Is there more than one interpretation of the title?

6. Do you think any of the themes are timeless & universal?

7. Which event in the novel did you find the most revealing & moving?

 8. Do you find the the technique of moving backwards & forwards disconcerting or does it enhance the novel?

 9. "Catch 22" is described as a satirical novel. Discuss the satire.


Our book club was very split on this book. Those that read it from start to finish gave it 9/10.

There were however those that got about 1/3rd of the way through and gave up. They found the book too confusing (the constant to and fro) and the many characters

This book is not an easy one, particularly for those Book Club Members who have  young families & work.  But for those who like a challenge, it is a thought provoking, clever novel which deals with important issues of universal & timeless concern & thus deserves to be on Book Club lists.

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