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An Unfinished Season

3.44  ·  Rating Details ·  765 Ratings  ·  111 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 the n
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 4th 2005 by Mariner Books (first published 2004)
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Ron Charles
Nov 28, 2013 Ron Charles rated it liked it
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
Mar 11, 2011 Lauren rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 19, 2007 David rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: debutantes, newsies
A story of a young man coming of age, caught in between worlds, incapable of using quotation marks.
Nov 17, 2011 Susan rated it it was amazing
“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
Timothy Bazzett
Feb 26, 2012 Timothy Bazzett rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 22, 2013 Ellie rated it it was amazing
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
Mark Parrish
Oct 19, 2008 Mark Parrish rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 21, 2011 Tony rated it really liked it
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
Aug 18, 2013 Kate rated it liked it
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
Dec 02, 2008 Kate Robinson rated it it was ok
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.

Nov 17, 2011 Peter rated it really liked it
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
I felt a little cheated by this book. It started so well. The rich brat of a narrator's father faces union trouble in his publishing business in the height of the red scare, in the 50s. His fellow businessmen watch like hawks, since it might be them next. The narrator is 19, about to go to college, but he has landed an unlikely summer job at a newspaper, where he gets to work with blue collar men whose way of living he knows nothing of, reporting about Chicago's unending nightly bloodletting.

Dec 06, 2009 Walter rated it really liked it
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
Bob Pearson
Nov 04, 2014 Bob Pearson rated it really liked it
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
Alison Hardtmann
Nov 17, 2016 Alison Hardtmann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library
An Unfinished Season is Ward Just's coming of age story set in Chicago of the 1950s. The year before Wils goes off to college is the year his father sees his control of his business challenged as his workers strike. His mother is frightened and his father begins carrying a gun in a duffel he carries everywhere with him. Wils gets a summer job at a local Chicago paper and spends his time juggling two worlds; the gritty, hyped up atmosphere of the newsroom and the genteel debutante parties he atte ...more
Oct 26, 2010 Armand rated it really liked it
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
May 10, 2013 Joanne rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 17, 2013 Andie rated it really liked it
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
Oct 20, 2015 Paul rated it liked it
A pleasant, but not especially exciting, book. Reading it is like having dinner with a self-absorbed academic in late middle age -- interesting if you pay close attention, but your host seems so content with his own company that you wonder why he bothered to invite you. The novel concerns the 19th summer of Wilson Ravan, an upper-middle-class kid from Chicago's northern suburbs (but not the North Shore -- he takes pains to make the distinction) who observes his parents endure marital difficultie ...more
Kurtis T.
Nov 06, 2015 Kurtis T. rated it it was amazing
Kurtis T. Bell
Book Review
An Unfinished Season
An Unfinished Season is an American novel by Ward Just. This novel is a very deep novel, feels just like a Soap Opera . During the Eisenhower era, a teenager soon to be adult name Wildrow Wilson grows up learning for his father and personal experience en route into becoming a man. This novel will resemble the liking of a movie as you read it.
What I like about this book, is how realistic the dialogue, it actually seem like the book was non-fiction and
Jun 22, 2008 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, chicago
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
Jun 28, 2008 Gregg rated it liked it
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
Sep 24, 2008 Nancy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 26, 2013 Holly rated it really liked it
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
Mar 25, 2009 Lobstergirl rated it it was ok
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
Jan 18, 2008 Jackie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 02, 2014 Kyle rated it liked it
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
Aug 05, 2009 Marvin rated it it was ok
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
Feb 26, 2015 Zaahir rated it really liked it
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
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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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