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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.
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.
18 of 19 people found this review helpful
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.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
What did you like best about From Here to Eternity? What did you like least?
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. <br/> <br/>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.
11 of 14 people found this review helpful
What did you like best about From Here to Eternity? What did you like least?
The book was probably considered bold for its time, but the writing distracts from what is otherwise a good story. Throughout the book Jones employs a strange and irritating use of adverbs in describing what the characters say (e.g., "he said pleasedly" and "he said relievedly"). There is also an undertone of antisemitism that, in my opinion, doesn't just reflect the attitudes of the characters. Also, the two key male characters do one stupid, self-destructive thing after another based on their own unique moral standards in the case of Prewitt (like The Fountainhead) or because they just don't give a damn in the case of Warden.
How could the performance have been better?
With one major flaw which I never got used to, the reading was fine. The reader employed an exaggerated, unrealistic accent for the character Maylon Stark.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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.
7 of 10 people found this review helpful
Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?
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.
Would you recommend From Here to Eternity to your friends? Why or why not?
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.
What aspect of Elijah Alexander’s performance would you have changed?
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."
If this book were a movie would you go see it?
Probably. The movie would be rather graphic and depressing.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
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.
16 of 24 people found this review helpful
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.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
Where does From Here to Eternity rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
This is one of the best audiobooks I've listened too. I had started reading the novel several times, never making it that far into the story. But, listening to it really took me into the book. I felt like I was there, hanging out with a LL the characters, going through daily life in the military.
Who was your favorite character and why?
The major characters were great, and I was familiar with them from the film. One character who was either not in the movie, or just really put into the background was Bloom. Such a rich and complex character, he was such a jerk, but I also found my heart breaking for this tortured man.
What does Elijah Alexander bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
The narrator was amazing, and created VERY strong voices to each of the diverse characters, which, for a novel as long as this is, and with so many characters, couldn't have been easy. His voices for Stark, Maggio, and Ike Galovitch were my favorite. They were so distinct, and really brought the characters to life.
Who was the most memorable character of From Here to Eternity and why?
It's a toss up between Bloom and Maggio. They were just so vivid, so complex, deeply flawed, and tragic as well. The final scene with Bloom (I won't spoil it) remained with me for days afterwards.
Any additional comments?
Get this audiobook. I can't recommend it enough.
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.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful