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.
Let's face it, these authors aren't paying me, so there's no need to lie!!
The reviews currently on Audible seem to be all over the place, in regards to this book, so I hope to make things clear. For what this book is, it is GENIUS.
It tells the stories of some of the "lowest men on the totem pole" in the US Army, prior to the US entering the war. You're not going to get the big battles, the big personalities (like MacArthur or Patton), or the big action. What you will get is TONS of tension and human conflict! Jones' ability to make these characters real is remarkable. The situations they find themselves in, while not the most exciting, are filled with drama.
The stakes are high in almost every scene, and the character are so fleshed out that we actually care what happens to them. The writing is some of the best I've ever read, in terms of transporting the reader into the gritty, terrible world that these men occupied on a daily basis. It wasn't pretty, but it was real.
The narrator was a mixed bag for me. Some of the time he seemed to be whispering, which was a bit odd and unnecessary. However, his different voices help the characters stand out, which is greatly needed when there are this many to keep track of.
Overall, if you enjoy WWII historical fiction, and want something that delves deeper into the human psychodrama of soldiers, instead of just the battles, this is the book for you.
An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.
This book starts off slow, it's not a war story but a military life story. Most of the action takes place before Pearl Harbor and we see little of the aftermath. I wasn't prepared to like this book much, but it really grows on you.
There are so many characters that are so well drawn, that you know they were all based on real people and events. Robert E. Lee Prewitt is a "30 year man" (career soldier) who starts off in the bugle corps but because he is a great fighter is put in the ring. He almost kills a man and swears off boxing and transfers out of the bugle corps and is transferred to Schofield barracks where "Dynamite" Holmes wants to have the best boxing squad of all time. Prew is pressured to fight but holds out and eventually ends up in the stockade.
Now it turns into a sadistic prison story which really gets interesting. Guards beat you for fun and some people go crazy or don't survive at all.
Milt Warden has an affair with Holmes' wife Karen who has a very bad reputation. Once Warden learns her real story he knows he will never love anyone else as much as he loves her. He even puts in for officer school so he can be the man she wants him to be.
Those are the main characters but there are many more. This is the re-released version with the gay scenes put back in and I really thought it was well done. Some I have heard say it's too long, but I listened to every minute of it and didn't see anything that didn't belong.
The narrator Elijah Alexander was new to me, but I enjoyed his accents and voices. Stark was annoying at first but I got used to him by the end and he ended up being one of my favorite characters.
The suicide of one of the characters was so unique, I cringed and almost laughed in the unusual way Mr. Jones presented it. I have since read that his own father had killed himself and this may have been an attempt of his to explain some of his feelings on the matter. Well done.
I enjoyed this book and will probably listen to it again. It is my first by this author.
In listening to this famous book, I found myself longing for a Reader's Digest condensed version. Scenes and conversations go on far too long and retrace the same path--many times I rolled my eyes and said 'for god's sake let's move on!' The writing is awkward and self-indulgent, the philosophy espoused by the characters--often at great length--is complete gibberish. The characters themselves are maddeningly self-defeating and unfathomable. It's hard to identify with Prewitt, who seems incapable of making a single correct decision. The men are all misogynistic and in the alternate reality of this book, women don't really enjoy sex, they just do it so the men will talk to them. For all that, I must admit it did conjure up old Hawaii before the war very well, and it held my interest. I guess any character you get to know is interesting, but there are better writers out there than James Jones.
Note to the actor who read this: Adjutant is not pronounced ad-JOO-tent. M/Sgt is spoken as master sergeant, not m-sergeant. Others have commented on your Hawaiian name mangling and I concur. Your funny little voices were annoying, especially that of Stark. Less is more in that regard.
This story of an army base on Oahu in the months preceding the Pearl Harbor attack is over-written but absorbing nevertheless, despite a so-so narration. The two-track plot follows the fortunes and love lives of a sergeant and a private. It effectively delineates the military and social attitudes and divisions of the time, including casual racism and antisemitism and an interesting dip into the homosexual demimonde in Honolulu. But It's a show-offy literary performance featuring NCO's debating dialectics, Shakespeare-quoting whores, and a zen master in the stockade. The author never used just one simile if he could think of five, and invented adverbs if actual ones weren't available. (This book would have driven Elmore Leonard mad.)
The narration is well-paced, considering the heft of the book, but the reader 's accents and vocal characterizations of the cast are off base at best and annoying at times.
I bought this in a special Audible sale/promotion of unabridged classics, and question whether it was really worth my time despite the special price.
The book is a realistic book detailing the gritty experiences of soldiers in early WWII. The focus is on non-commissioned officers and enlisted men in the army. Readers will learn how these men thought and the decisions they made. My chief criticism is that the author never provided a hopeful answer to the fatalistic world perspectives of the characters.
Yes. It provides a "peak" into the mindset of those who have little hope in a world that appears to not reward the poor and downtrodden.
It would have been helpful to not read word for word. Since Jones used a lot of "he said's", Jones could have merely used different voices to avoid the constant refrain of "he said's."
Probably. The movie would be rather graphic and depressing.
work at a job that lets me listen to books all day I like history, good mysteries and humor
I enjoyed this story a lot and have thought about it quite a few times since finishing it. Good characters and flow to the story and dec 7 seemed very real and funny in ways too.
Elijah Alexander manages to mispronounce almost every Hawaiian word except for 'Honolulu.' How uninformed does one have to be to pronounce Hilo Hattie's name as high-low Hattie? Imagine what he does with 'Wahiawa' and 'Haleiwa.' The narrator's ignorance of common Hawaiian names was distracting to the story, and should be an embarrassment to him and the publisher.
The author can (and does) wax poetic about gambling bouts (including smoking piss-soaked cigarette butts) but all women are whores to be "shacked-up" with; we don't even get the usual whore-saint dichotomy. Frankly, the men don't treat each other much better, but women take the brunt of the author's anger. The book lacks even the minimal romance of the movie. I bought this during a two for one credit sale, and would have returned it if I had paid full price.
This book is "Solid" in terms not just a fluff book you read and forget and move on to the next read.
The book makes you think a bit.The story is not contrived especially the romances. It is somewhat closer to real life than "romance" novels.
The beginning was a bit slow.
I almost abandoned the book, but hung in there.
The setting is at a army base but a lot of the book was about people and the characters. For the time and morals of the American culture when the book was published it was quite racy.
WOW. Great book!
Closest book like this I can think of is "A Prayer for Owen Meany".
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.
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