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Basis for the well reviewed new movie, this second book in James Jones' WWII trilogy tells the story of C-for-Charlie company & their participation in the battle of Guadalcanal. It really reads more
like a Viet Nam precursor than like a novel of WWII. The men of C-for-Charlie are sodomites, drunkards, cowards, slackers, homosexuals, thieves, sadists & only occasionally heroes. Their war is a battle against tedium, the elements, each other & their officers as much as against the Japanese. In the end, we sense that the actual battle against the Japanese has been fairly meaningless; just a fight over "property" as one character says.

I find this grunt's eye view of war to be pretty obtuse & unsatisfying. I'm sure a soldiers life is difficult, it must have been especially so for those fighting in the South Pacific (see William Manchester's war memoir Goodbye Darkness).  However, one has to ask, so what? Is it really important that a grunt understand why he's fighting for Hill #517? Is it important whether he's bored & fungus ridden & sexually deprived? I think not. Wars are fought for national purposes, not to entertain the troops. Perhaps we shouldn't have had men fighting in the Pacific, but when we decided, as a nation, to fight the Japanese, their presence in that theater became inevitable. It seems petty &
selfish to complain about how little fun the troops had during the ensuing war.

Ultimately, the book offers an interesting picture of the daily life of soldiers, but it is devoid of the larger themes that made From Here to Eternity a great book.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (C)

  

Websites:

See also:

James Jones (2 books reviewed)
War
Book-related and General Links:
    -James Jones Literary Society
    -The Thin Red Line: Official Movie Site
    -ESSAY: JONES'S NOVELS: FROM HERE TO POSTERITY?  (ERICA ABEE, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of INTO ETERNITY: The Life of James Jones, American Writer. By Frank MacShane (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of INTO ETERNITY: The Life of James Jones, American Writer. By Frank MacShane (Robert Phillips, NY Times Book Review)

If you liked The Thin Red Line, try:

Cozzens, James Gould
    -Guard of Honor

Crane, Stephen
    -The Red Badge of Courage

Heller, Joseph
    -Catch-22

Horgan, Paul
    -A Distant Trumpet

Kesey, Ken
    -One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Mailer, Norman
    -The Naked and the Dead

Manchester, William
    -Goodbye Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War

McKenna, Richard
    -The Sand Pebbles

O'Brien, Tim
    -Going After Cacciato

Pearce, Don
    -Cool Hand Luke

Shaara, Jeff
    -Gods and Generals

Shaara, Michael
    -The Killer Angels

Wouk, Herman
    -The Caine Mutiny

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