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Half Of Paradise

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  655 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
A mesmerising novel set in the Louisiana heartland from award-winning author James Lee Burke.
Published July 1st 1999 by Orion Publishing Group (first published January 1st 1965)
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Frank Roberts
Feb 25, 2009 Frank Roberts rated it it was ok
This is James Lee Burke's first novel. Great characters, strong description, and mostly interesting situations. BUT. . . it is one of the most depressing books I ever read (just finished it), and some of the dialog and situations go nowhere for pages and pages - just lots of back and forth between desperate little people with nothing to say about life sometimes. I really like his later mysteries, but this was not my cup of tea (I did finish it, hoping to find something redeeming in it. Sigh!)
Jan 15, 2012 Jim rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
It is quite interesting to read the first book by an author you enjoy, to see how their writing has developed and progressed, especially if they have acquired a following, such as Burke definitely has. The story itself is less than satisfying, but interesting enough (though I much prefer Pierce's Cool Hand Luke), and goes along fairly quickly. I found it amusing when I came across turns of phrase that I know he has used in later books, such as his description of nutria as they make their "scream ...more
Chris Jensen
Mar 28, 2011 Chris Jensen rated it it was ok
A very predictable and tiresome read. At times, the prose was excellent, particualary the descriptions of the nuances of Louisiana culture. But there little to look forward in reading about three two-time losers systematically destroying their lives through their own poor decisions. The only saving grace is that Burke does not swaddle these losers with victimhood.
Jan 09, 2014 J.R. rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Just completed a re-read of James Lee Burke’s first published novel, Half of Paradise. Though he was only in his twenties when it came out in 1965, the signs of his genius were already apparent.

It’s a tale of three men whose actions and circumstances and the nature of the U.S. criminal justice system doom them to a certain fate. Avery Broussard, the last of a prominent family, is an alcoholic whose bad judgment leads him to prison. Toussaint
Boudreaux, an African American, is a longshoreman and
Oct 14, 2012 Emily rated it it was ok

Perhaps, had I read this in 1965 when it was written, I would have found it more interesting. As it was, I found myself getting confused with the characters (and there are only three main ones and they are pretty different), and not really caring what happened to them. Some of the dialogue, and the prose, is awful and painful to trudge through. Had I read this first, I likely would not have explored other novels by Burke. And that would have been the biggest tragedy of this book by far.
His first. Three hard-luck-Joes. Life is hard then you die. Harder for some than others. Hard people living hard lives. Burke is such an excellent story teller, easy with dialog, makes the local slang seem comfortable. And B. shows us you don't have to be a bad person to have bad things happen to you. Sometimes, the most innocent things trip you up. Not that there aren't bad men, but if you stay out of pool halls....Dad always told me, 'if you hang around the service station, your going to get g ...more
Sep 28, 2012 Carol rated it it was ok
Definitely not a feel-good book. Well-written, predictable, and disturbing. Interesting, but odd. It was one of those books that if the library loan would have run out before I finished the book, I would have been fine with that. Hmmm....
Mike Hovis
Aug 12, 2015 Mike Hovis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a good but depressing read!

I love to read James Lee Burke. I've finally read the book that brought him to national attention. It's very enjoyable, but sad. I won't say more than that for fear of giving it away. I recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Mr. Burke.
Jan 14, 2010 Sally rated it did not like it
Ew. The worst James Lee Burke I've ever read. The only bad James Lee Burke I've ever read! This was a chore to finish.
Feb 09, 2017 Melody rated it it was amazing
I have yet to read a novel by Mr. Burke that I don't like. This is no exception. I should just go on a binge and read everything that I have not yet gotten to!
David Brown
Feb 11, 2015 David Brown rated it it was ok
It's easy to see how fans of James Lee Burke do not like this-his first-novel. This is the only work of Burke's that I've read and can't say I'm a big fan of the novel either. The characters are mostly unlikable, there's no plot to speak of, what story there is seems to go nowhere, and the author's positive reputation is not in evidence.

Half of Paradise follows three men, Avery Broussard, J. P. Winfield and Toussaint Boudreaux (none of whom achieve even a modicum of the amount of paradise promi
Donna Davis
James Lee Burke has been writing for roughly fifty years now, and this was an early effort, published in 1965; I think it was his first, in fact. It starts out appearing to be short stories, but the narratives involving three individuals eventually make one crushing point about the dismal, cynical failure of the US criminal justice system, which rains down its uneven blows hardest upon the poorest sectors of the population. He never actually says it. He goes one better, by demonstrating it throu ...more
Sep 21, 2016 Chris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is my very favoritest of James Lee Burke's work - I believe I last read this some time during a summer between spring and fall semesters in college, after having read it once or twice before that. My [sort of] grandfather lent me this novel with a stack of other James Lee Burke stuff, as well as Randy Wayne White, Carl Hiaasen, and Dave Barry novels. There were sundry civil war novels scattered in there as well, and even a few John Connolly novels (I think that was when he passed Every Dead ...more
James Sorensen
Sep 18, 2012 James Sorensen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is Burke's first novel. A tale of three men from Louisiana and how each is able to face his demons. Not the most upbeat story but we get a first taste of the poetry that is Burke's writing. Burke is one of the best writers out there right now. His words flow over the page as his descriptive writing paints a vivid picture of the stories he tells. Avery Broussard, a one time land owner, is arrested when caught running moonshine, J.P. Winfield is a musician that makes the big time and then spi ...more
Roger Wood
Feb 05, 2014 Roger Wood rated it liked it
I've recently become addicted to the non-Robicheaux novels of James Lee Burke. This is the least interesting but that's forgivable, given it's the first. The three storylines don't work as well as they might because they're not interlinked, not even thematically, except that we're talking about three losers who continue losing. That said, the quality of the writing is amazing for a first novel. The dialogue rings true and some of the descriptive passages are really jaw-droppingly fine. I'm glad ...more
Dec 13, 2012 Torimac rated it did not like it
Shelves: duds
I wish I could remember who suggested I read this author. After seeing the other reviews here (thank you good reads and goodreaders) i will probably try another one of his books. But this thing I could hardly stand to read. In fact, after the first section "book one" i just started flipping thru and reading random parts... and found the writing rather uninspired and flat, and the character development dull and predictable. Maybe he was one of the first to observe and describe these sorts of char ...more
Nov 26, 2013 Joan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up-on
I bought this book on the strength of the author's name. The back-cover blurb explained that this was Burke's first published work, written when he was in his twenties. It was obvious in this novel that he had potential as an author; he was good at developing dimensional characters and had a smooth and literate writing style. I am glad he continued to write because he produced some good work later in his career.
Apr 23, 2009 Pat rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was James Lee Burke's first book, and it was grim and badly written, so when the guy who gave me this handed me IN THE ELECTRIC MIST WITH CONFEDERATE DEAD, also by Burke, and told me I'd like it I was skeptical. But I really did enjoy it! JLB has improved considerably.In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead
Jeff Dickison
James Lee Burke's first book is well written with the exception that the characters are not very likable. They get themselves into trouble because of poor decision making and seem powerless to change. You can look back at this and see that he would become a major novelist, but he just wasn't quite there yet.
Jan 20, 2013 Becca rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"At first, I found the stories marginally interesting, but when these three disparate tales--each about a Louisianna man down on his luck intertwined in the way they are each chained by prison, addiction, poverty--got even more depressing, and failed to connect much with each other, and felt doomed from the start, I am now sorry I read it!"
Apr 30, 2013 Gill rated it it was ok
I'm a confirmed JLB fan but I'm really glad this wasn't the first of his books I read or it would definitely have been the last. I've decided not to bother finishing it as I have some much more interesting books to read.
I have just persuaded my Book Group to read his work so I'm glad I didn't include this one!
Eli Bishop
Sep 13, 2010 Eli Bishop rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction-general
A sort of prison-within-prison story, the outer prison being the whole country, as three guys-- a privileged wastrel, a black boxer/patsy, and a Depression-era Elvis prototype-- get ground up in the economy in various ways. Their fates may be overdetermined, but the time and place are vivid. The invisible fourth character is money, and he's pretty scary.
Dec 30, 2008 Mikel rated it liked it
I give most James Lee Burke books 4 or 5 stars, but this is one of the few that doesn't quite rate it. Still a great book, but I didn't find the world of Toussaint Boudreaux as authentic or palpable as the series' set in Louisianna, Texas or Montana. I get the impression that this is a world not quite as native to JLB as those in other series'.
Stacy Bearse
Dec 14, 2011 Stacy Bearse rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
A great author's first novel. Burke traces the lives of three flawed men who, thanks to fate or free will, stumble through tough lives. Forget about the plot. Read this for the incredible prose, the poetic word smithing, and crisp characterization. Burke remains my favorite novelist. He's in a class by himself.
Lorin Cary
Sep 30, 2009 Lorin Cary rated it liked it
The first novel by Burke (back in 1965) is powerful. Louisiana work camps, country music and politics, addiction and racism---all emerge in the stories of three hard-luck characters who are defined in alternating chapters. Success is on the cusp, and then . . .
Mary Newcomb
This early James Lee Burke is a fabulous character study. Each man made a bad decision, in a difficult circumstance, which led to an even worse situation. And Burke's writing is so very compelling, poignant and insightful.
Sep 24, 2016 Kim rated it it was ok
I didn't realize this was James Lee Burke's very first book until after I'd started reading it. This story of three down-on-their luck men was okay, but I kept expecting some event to tie them together. That never happened and it just fell flat.
Mar 11, 2013 Debra rated it it was ok
James Lee Burke's first novel. Living proof that authors can improve. Flashes of his later stylish writing show, as well as his willingness to explore the meaner side of life. Still, the pacing and tension are missing. Glad that I found this one on Overdrive.
Katie Chestnut
May 04, 2014 Katie Chestnut rated it liked it
I read this after reading other Burke's books. It was interesting to see how he has developed over time. I am spending the summer re-reading o
All of his books in order. I look forward to seeing the development of a writer that I love.
Nov 19, 2008 Joe rated it liked it
Shelves: jlb
Not a bad read, interesting tale of three different mens lives in 1950's Louisiana. Not a Crime or Thriller novel that fans of JLB would be now accustomed to - 1st book ever published by JLB I believe.
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James Lee Burke is an American author best known for his mysteries, particularly the Dave Robicheaux series. He has twice received the Edgar Award for Best Novel, for Black Cherry Blues in 1990 and Cimarron Rose in 1998.

Burke was born in Houston, Texas, but grew up on the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast. He attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the University of Missouri, receiving
More about James Lee Burke...

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