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An Unfinished Season

3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  615 ratings  ·  93 reviews
"The winter of the year my father carried a gun for his own protection was the coldest on record in Chicago." So begins Ward Just's An Unfinished Season, the winter in question a postwar moment of the 1950s when the modern world lay just over the horizon, a time of rabid anticommunism, worker unrest, and government corruption. Even the small-town family could not escape th ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 4th 2005 by Mariner Books (first published 2004)
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2005 Tournament of Books
8th out of 16 books — 10 voters
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319th out of 418 books — 354 voters

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Community Reviews

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Ron Charles
Ward Just's new novel, "An Unfinished Season," is a strange act of historical ventriloquism. A 60-year-old narrator in the early 1990s recalls a summer in the 1950s in a voice that sounds like F. Scott Fitzgerald memorializing the 1920s. It's not so much that you can't put it down, but that you shouldn't put it down because the moment you stop reading, the spell breaks and you're left with the aftertaste of pretentious insight.

For Wilson Ravan, the summer before college was a time of momentous c
Set in 1950s Chicago (and its environs), this is a coming-of-age tale that hints at being something great but instead falls into worn-out plotlines (in the past year, I can recall reading at least two other novels with similar plots and resolutions). The story of nineteen-year-old Wils Ravan hits the ground running with a unique style and a plot and setting interwoven so as to suggest a richly nuanced story. The promising start, however, gives way to drawn-out introspection and wisps of somethin ...more
I was slow getting into this, in part because of style. A paragraph can last a couple pages (in one case, a chapter’s length); at times I found myself drifting into Editorial Mind, imagining where I would break it. Also, the author doesn’t set off dialogue with quotation marks, so it can be an effort to differentiate it from other text. But my larger problem was that the first half of the book felt like it was populated with male “types”--the taciturn father, the salty guys in the newsroom, etc. ...more
Jul 17, 2007 David rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: debutantes, newsies
A story of a young man coming of age, caught in between worlds, incapable of using quotation marks.
I love the work of Ward Just. Every work I have read of his has been a gift, a wonderful surprise. An Unfinished Season is another example of his amazing skill and talents. It recounts the summer of 19 year old Wils, a North Shore Chigoan in the 1950s. Wils has a summer job working for a newspaper before going to the University of Chicago. He falls in love with Aurora Brule, a sophisticated and strong-willed young woman. In the background are the parents-Wils' father, fighting the union at his f ...more
Timothy Bazzett
Ward Just's AN UNFINISHED SEASON is not at all what I'd expected. It was better. It is a coming-of-age kind of story, but several cuts above most books of that sort. Just brings a kind of sophistication and artistry seldom seen in books about growing up and falling in love. Granted there is the knowledge and heartbreak that often comes with hindsight in such matters, but (and I wish I had a little more sophistication in describing this beautiful book) Jeeze, this is one helluva story!

Set in Chic
Mark Parrish
Nov 02, 2008 Mark Parrish rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: All readers
Recommended to Mark by: Stumbled upon it
It has been many years since I have read a novel of this greatness. Ward Just could be compared to some of the greatest...F.Scott Fitzgerald, D. H. Lawrence, Graham Green, just to name a few. Just is extraordinary at capturing a vocabulary that takes you into his story where you feel intimately involved with his characters. The Unfinished Season gives you a masterful look at what deb parties and the high society looks like in the early 1900's Chicago. The main character Wils is 19 years old, a s ...more
“An Unfinished Season” is the third of what Just calls his “Illinois cycle” of novels. Published in 2004, it was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize.

Set in the Eisenhower/McCarthy Era years (Adlai Stevenson and Marlon Brando make cameo appearances), first-person narrator Wils lives with his mother and father in Quarterday, Ill., in the same direction from Chicago and the opulent North Shore suburbs as the real Half Day, Ill. Even though he is decidedly middle class, Wils has attended an exclu
Just, Ward. AN UNFINISHED SEASON. (2004). ****.
Just is one of those writers who makes sure that he has exactly the right word for what he is trying to tell the reader about. In this novel, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, Just tells the story of Wilson (Wils) Ravan, a nineteen-year-old young man who lives in a Chicago suburb called Quarterway. Wils has just completed high school and plans to move on to the University of Chicago. The summer of that year, a year in early 1950s, is the l
Bob Pearson
We all think perhaps that we might have a second chance at what went wrong in life. Who would not wish that it were so? With today's emphasis on life planning and bucket lists, we seem to be more convinced of a conscious shape for the future and a better chance to make up for the past. Maybe so.

Ward Just may not see it that way. In this very compelling book, a now mature man looks back at his 19th summer, his first love, his first job and his parents and tries one last time to tie it all togethe
I would have to say this book was a 3 and one half stars for me. It was very well written. A story about a 19 year old growing up in Chicago in the 50's and his first love. My problem with it, however, was that it didn't answer some of the questions I had reading the character's stories. I guess I just wanted the book to reveal some of the secrets many of the characters seem to have in life.
Kate Robinson
If I could give this book two and an half stars I would, but giving it three stars is just too many. It was the epitome of 'okay.' Very atmospheric, but that was about all. The momentum it developed early on in the novel fizzled about a quarter of the way through.

Can someone who is a fan of Ward Just please explain to me why he is considered such an outstanding writer? I've read a few of his novels and they are filled with elegant sentences and some of the least interesting characters in American letters. This novel is no exception: navel gazing teenagers who have all the insight of a Jewel song and adults who seem to be wise and cynical but come across as merely grumpy.

There are lovely descriptions of the world of the 1950s-era Chicago and a good contr
An Unfinished Season by Ward Just is an realistic fiction about a boy. He talks about his life. He talks about the winter his father died. Also, travels through out his life and close friends. He goes through a lot.

I liked a lot about this book. I liked how it gave descriptions about everything. Such as the setting. But there were somethings I didnt like.Such as how the book started up a little slow. Lost interest a little.

Despite the me losing interest, it was a good book. The events kepgt me
One summer in Wil Ravan's life in the 50's; 19 years old, about to go to college at the University of Chicago, interning by day at a Chicago newspaper, partying at night at debutante parties on the North Shore and living at home with his parents in Quarterday as his father faces a union strike at his printing company. Fun slice of midwestern life and views of Chicago in a time not so long ago, but seems like forever ago. Love his references to things i know in Chicago, but the writing is a bit c ...more
This is a coming of age novel that is incredibly well written. There's not a lot of action at and musings about actions taken or to be taken, but the book is really about the observations of one young man over the course of the summer season when he's 19. It's about Wils Ravan and his realization of the family and world that he lives in and how it does and will impact him. His family has shortcomings, as he's well aware, and he begins to understand them and grow into them. He "enters" ...more
I am so pleased to have discovered author, Ward Just. Loved this book which is set in Chicago in the 50's as young Wil is spending the summer working downtown Chicago for a newspaper. He is exposed to a different mix of people in the city than he has grown up with north of Chicago in a more rural area. Finds he doesn't fit in, as the newsroom crowd view him as a party going rich kid headed to the University of Chicago.
Tales of Wil's coming of age as he attends many parties and finally meets a gi
Ward Just's marvelous An Unfinished Season is a vivid portrayal of a few months in the life of a young man in Chicago during the early 1950s. The narrator, Wils Ravan, is a priviliged nineteen year old who is spending his last summer of adolesence before starting college in the fall. Wils moves uneasily between three distinct worlds--his family homestead at the fictional, semi-rural Quarterday; the upscale North Shore communities of Lake Forest and Winnetka and their high society functions and d ...more
Wilson Raven is a young man from an unhappy family living in the exurbs of Chicago in 1953. His father's business (and reputation) is floundering as the result of a nasty labor strike at his printing business and his mother is alienated by a distant husband and the terminal illness of her father. What lies ahead during the summer in-between graduating from high school and his Freshman year at the University of Chicago is an exotic (to him) job as a go0fer at a third-rate tabloid newspaper and a ...more
I enjoyed this novel – I wasn’t sure I was going to like it at first. The narrator’s young, nineteen, a boy coming of age in one of Chicago’s wealthier suburbs in the 1950s. Initially I worried the novel was going to be a Midwestern take on Fitzgerald, but it turned out to be more original than that. My favorite part of the book wasn’t the plot--this is a coming-of-age novel--but the style. There are no quotations throughout which could be confusing. However, the author uses the lack of interrup ...more
For some reason it took me a while to get into this one – I must have read a few pages and put it down a dozen times. I don’t know why, exactly. The writing is tight and I’m a sucker for a story with a strong sense of place (here, Eisenhower-era Chicago). Thankfully something kept me coming back, and by the end, almost without my noticing, Just had built a taught, emotional story, with characters I cared about deeply. There’s a melancholy to Just’s portrait of a summer in Chicago and to the main ...more
Beautiful. Don't just take my word for it:

Our protagonist at the Art Institute:
"I imagined each canvas as a miniature civilization, living cities resting on dead ones, and somewhere in the brushstrokes were graveyards and sunshine as far as the eye could see. I was drawn to this Impressionist world, its appetite and sensuality, moments profoundly incomplete, beyond reach, filled with grief."

And re: the string of debutante balls along Chicago's tony North Shore:
"Some nights you could believe th
An Unfinished Season happens during Eisenhower's time in the White House and the communist scare - prior to the riotous times of the 60's. The setting is Chicago and the characters all live in the world of debutants and country clubs. The story is told by Wils, an only child just prior to his going off to college. He gets involved with a girl also headed off to an expensive University and all the drama that comes with the social scenes of the young living in a pampered reality. The story seemed ...more
Ward Just’s account of the coming of age of Wils Ravan, a young well-to-do man in Chicago in the 1950s wouldn’t sound like something that would particularly interest me. It took a long time for me to get going with this book, owing mainly to my drowsing off after 3 pages when I would pick it up just before bed.

But a conveniently timed trip to Atlanta gave me the good solid chunk of hours needed to get going, and once I got passed the narrator’s initial account of his family life and to the main
A coming of age book in the 1950's. The politics of that time and the separation of classes seemed true to my memory. This book received many awards. Just's writing seems to be defining not only the lives of his characters, but questiong the meaning of the historical times he used to set their stories. What I took away from the reading is that we live our lives with others but each of us interprets meaning differently.
A dark and disturbing commentary on family life in the 50’s, this fictionalized account of a prosperous North Shore family in Illinois is compelling and thought-provoking. With the 19-year-old Wils going off to the University of Chicago in the fall, his family as it once was known is unraveling around him. His father is business is in turmoil as unions, McCarthyism and a unsettled economy threaten his livelihood. His mother is physically present, but her mind is often elsewhere. When tragedy str ...more
This is one of those books that's probably very good but just didn't capture my imagination. It's about the experiences of a young man in the summer before he goes off to college (at the University of Chicago). He's from a wealthy family & spends many an evening at debutante parties, but at the same time he has to confront some of life's harsher realities. Early on, there's a good deal of talk about the character of the Midwest (he lives with his parents on a golf course out beyond the exclu ...more
Christopher Bauer
Story of a an adolecent making his way to adulthood. The book revolves much around his relationship with his father, scenes which we touch on only momentarily but that have a lasting effect of imparting great sense of understanding in life.
Nov 09, 2009 Lobstergirl rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Manucher Ghorbanifar
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Tarja Halonen
What is it with Ward Just? The blurbs could not be more complimentary. Blurbists found this book splendid, stunning, witty, sophisticated, elegant, beautifully languid, powerfully evocative, ravishingly atmospheric (the blurbists are always calling Just atmospheric). It was a Pulitzer finalist. For me, it was quite dull. Like the last Just I read, it feels very dated (the setting is Eisenhower era Chicago). Jazz is listened to and ice clinks in cocktails. None of the characters are remotely appe ...more
Morgan Sutkiewicz
I wasn't a fan of this book. First of all, it was incredibly slow. Nothing happened in the book until at least halfway through. Second, the story itself seemed insignificant. It was simply one small part of the main character's life, but it seemed like fringe events should have been more detailed and important. The end of the story is told in retrospect and I found that I was annoyed that Wils was still hung up on this period of his life, especially when the author makes it seem like his life af ...more
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Ward Just (born 1935) is an American writer. He is the author of 15 novels and numerous short stories.

Ward Just graduated from Cranbrook School in 1953. He briefly attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He started his career as a print journalist for the Waukegan (Illinois) News-Sun. He was also a correspondent for Newsweek and The Washington Post from 1959 to 1969, after which he left
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