Diamond Head, Hawaii, 1941. Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt is a champion welterweight and a fine bugler. But when he refuses to join the company's boxing team, he gets "the treatment" that may break him or kill him. First Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden knows how to soldier better than almost anyone, yet he's risking his career to have an affair with the commanding officer's wife. Both Warden and Prewitt are bound by a common bond: the Army is their heart and blood...and, possibly, their death.
In this magnificent but brutal classic of a soldier's life, James Jones portrays the courage, violence and passions of men and women who live by unspoken codes and with unutterable despair. The most important American novel to come out of World War II, this is a masterpiece that captures as no other the honor and savagery of men.
©1998 James Jones (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
The first thing that struck me, having grown so used to the movie version over the years, is how young all the characters are. Most of them are barely into their early 20s, and some of them are still in their teens. And like so many young men of that age, they are trying to understand life. It was just a smidge surprising to hear the same old college dorm room bull sessions coming out of the mouths of young enlisted men. But college kids have no reason to think they have a monopoly on that kind of philosophical speculation. Prewitt is at the heart of this conversation on what it is to be a man. His internal conflict between his own sense of self and what the Army demands of him is what drives the whole book.
Set in 1941, and written 10 years later, this book preserves an honest depiction of how a certain class of people lived and thought, while unavoidably coloring it with how Americans were changed by the war and its aftermath. Allowing for a certain amount of authorial tampering, this is a more uncensored look at normal Americans than you will get from the movies, and a whole lot more informative than you will get from history books. I applaud the visceral realism that James Jones tries to capture here.
I had no idea the movie version dealt with such a narrow slice of this book. To it's credit, the movie captures the essential core of the book as far as story and characters go. What got lost is a lot of the back story for the characters, and how the peacetime military became a refuge for young men hit hard by the Depression. In fact, the influence of the early 20th century labor movement, the Prohibition years, the Depression, and hobo subculture, all loom large as formative factors for these people. The other thing that got shorted was the internal life of these characters.
One odd thing about the novel is that there is a change in tone that takes over most of the last quarter of it. It kind of feels like that portion was written earlier, before Jones had polished his style. It feels amateurish like a young writer trying to imitate some cheap pulp fiction of the time. Jones does a good deal of damage to the authenticity of the characters he worked so hard to create. Fortunately, he manages to get back on track and ends strong.
Overall, Elijah Alexander does a great job of keeping all the characters straight and giving them appropriate accents. My one complaint is that I wish he hadn't adopted such an exaggerated drawl for Maylon Stark.
The horrible mispronunciations of Hawaiian words (it took me forever to realize that 'Wahoo' was supposed to mean O'ahu...) was commented on earlier but even Spark's Texas accent is bad - just dropping your voice and adding some cool to it doesn't make a Texan!
But I do believe it fits the book: the characters are totally flat just like what we always thought Army life is all about. I only made it through 1/3 of the book though - the reading was just too bad.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
From Here to Eternity was named by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of the twentieth century. It earned the National Book Award for fiction in 1951.
Reading it in 2014 makes one hope American’ civilization has progressed since Jones wrote his Army opus about pre-WWII’ Hawaii. Jones writes about the months before and immediately after Pearl Harbor.
The stereotyping, misogyny, and bravado of Jones’ characters are, at times cloying, and at other times, entertaining. From Here to Eternity is a guy’s-guy’ novel that embarrasses men who think they are brave and women who are brave.
This is an atmospheric experience that I read the first time in high school. You get pulled into worlds clouded with cigarette smoke and sweet with frying bacon and eggs. Jones does such a great job you can practically smell the perfume of the girls at the New Congress Hotel. All of this makes it so hard to stomach the mispronouced names and words by the narrator. Its like being shook awake out of a pleasant dream with cold water. It wrecks concentration and is just plain distracting.
Milt Warden, G Company, First Sergeant. I have known men of quality like him. I suspect James Jones did too.
The narrator has a fine voice, but who ever produced it needs a pronunciation guide to 1940s Americana, to say nothing of the lexicon of the US Army and soldiers.
turning it off
His characters are absolutely horrendous. Had to turn this off after a few hours. I tried to listen, but the voices he makes make it impossible to listen.
Neither. Don't like the story, don't like the narrator. The narrator is very disrespectful of some of the characters, and gives them voices and vocal ticks I've never heard, and are very irritating.
Don't write any more books
I gave it one star, because negative stars wasn't an option.
Wine, food and travel writer, editor, and aspiring novelist.
The characters are cardboard cliché’s, the dialogue laughable, the plot boring, the pace plodding, and the writing atrocious. I am truly shocked by how poorly written this book is, particularly as it won the National Book Award. Virtually every page (or minute) has paragraphs that could win “The Bad Hemingway Contest.”
The narration is also among the worst I’ve heard (out of hundreds) and seriously diminished the experience. If you are a writer and bemoan your lack of talent, read this book — it will make you feel so much better about yourself.
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