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The Thin Red Line (The World War II Trilogy #2)

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,944 Ratings  ·  167 Reviews
"When compared to the fact that he might very well be dead by this time tomorrow, whether he was courageous or not today was pointless, empty. When compared to the fact that he might be dead tomorrow, everything was pointless. Life was pointless. Whether he looked at a tree or not was pointless. It just didn't make any difference. It was pointless to the tree, it was point ...more
Paperback, 475 pages
Published May 7th 1998 by Sceptre (first published 1962)
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The Book Thief by Markus ZusakCatch-22 by Joseph HellerSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutAtonement by Ian McEwanThe Winds of War by Herman Wouk
World War II Fiction
23rd out of 773 books — 1,285 voters
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria RemarqueCatch-22 by Joseph HellerSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutThe Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienThe Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
Best War Novels
46th out of 727 books — 717 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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mark monday
A true masterpiece and one of my favorite novels. Although it has all the realistic, gritty detailing that any novel recounting World War 2 Guadalcanal should have, it is so much more. The reader will indeed learn which gun is which and which rank is which. They will understand what needs to happen to take a hill. They will know what a crowded ship full of men will smell like. They will come to understand the practical intricacies of making war. But, as anyone who viewed the recent version of th ...more
Mar 06, 2013 Ursula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, world-war-ii
I saw the 1998 movie version of this book in theaters when it came out. I remember that I was completely mesmerized and transported by it. It was a movie about war unlike any I'd ever seen before - it was mostly quiet and internal. Walking out of the theater, I found out I was pretty much alone in my enjoyment of it - people all around me said it was slow, boring, pointless. I mention this because I think the movie version prepared me for the book, which is probably just as divisive.

The story fl
May 07, 2012 Drew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had the same reaction to this as I did to From Here to Eternity, which is to say that the beginning was so irritating that it almost made me put it down, but I ended up glad that I didn't.

I haven't read too many other books that were written around this time, but the prose style in this seems lackluster. Yeah, there are some poetic bits, but there are also bits that seem really lazy. In the first handful of pages, for example, Jones uses the words 'unpleasant' and 'supercilious' to describe D
Igor Ljubuncic
Mar 15, 2016 Igor Ljubuncic rated it really liked it
Shelves: james-jones
I really love James Jones's books. As a former military man, he brings the story of war in such vivid color that you don't get from any thousand blockbusters. Think Saving Private Ryan. Then toss that into a bin. Completely not like that. There's melancholy, there's sadness, there's mad happiness in what's essentially total despair and chaos.

Don't expect a happy ending, only a bitter sweet one. Don't expect miracles, because there won't be any, only a bunch of human stories coming together loose
Aug 30, 2014 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the greatest books on how World War II was fought in the Pacific; it is also unparalleled in its exploration of the nature of war, especially on how it affects the psyches of those bound up in it. It's the second of Jones' trilogy on the Second World War. All of the venues of the three novels were derived from his experiences; Pre-war Schofield Barracks in Oahu, the 1942-43 battles of Mount Austen, the Galloping Horse, and the Sea Horse on Guadalcanal, and in military hospitals. T ...more
Jun 11, 2015 4ZZZ rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-fiction
See my review on From here To Eternity. I thought that this would be a let down after that wonderful book but had no issues at all. Fine book indeed. Now to try and force my self to read the final book of the trio.
Megan Openshaw
If I saw this in a bookshop, the likelihood is I'd walk straight past it without a second glance. I have little to no prior experience with 'war writing' (I'm not sure whether to count The Book Thief) - something like this isn't the kind of thing I'd normally read, but I'm so glad I did!

I won't go into too much detail about the plot (no spoilers!), but the basic premise of the novel is that it follows a group of US troops, 'C-for-Charlie Company', and depicts their experiences during the Guadalc
Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma
The thin red line...whet is it? It is the line that separates life from death, health from injury.
The Novel is an anti-war novel. The effects of war are clearly elaborated.
The reasons for war is actually left out. We see Welsh asking himself why they are fighting? He seems to be the only one with an answer to that question.

Fife also tries to answer that question, but his reasons are vague. Besides being sent by the government, he's in war for his own personal reasons. That is, to prove that he
Geoffrey Benn
Feb 17, 2014 Geoffrey Benn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
“The Thin Red Line,” by James Jones, is the fictional account of the trials endured by the men of Charlie Company during their first month on Guadalcanal in the early days of WWII. The book, first published in 1962, has come to be recognized as a classic war novel. I think that designation is well-deserved – the book is an incredible examination of the varying ways in which men react to the shock of combat. Jones follows at least a dozen recurring characters through a range of experiences – incl ...more
Jan 26, 2016 Booknblues rated it it was amazing
An incredible War story set in the pacific theater of WWII. Packed with action, relationships, drama and a close look at the inferno of war.
This would be a good companion book to Catch 22, if one were to chart a course for literature of the second world war.
May 11, 2015 Emily rated it it was amazing
Let’s start with the names of the soldiers: Big Queen, Buck Sergeant Doll, Shorty Tall. Then move on to the soldiers’ names for their battle sites: The Giant Boiled Shrimp, The Sea Slug, Boola Boola. In vivid strokes like these, Jones brings intimacy, humor, and authenticity to his story of the U.S. invasion of Guadalcanal, told from the viewpoints of a handful of combat troops in C-for-Charlie Company. This book gives a reader so much to gnaw on: What is a soldier? What makes a good one? Can so ...more
Jan 02, 2015 Ola rated it liked it
I'm surprised that I did not like the book more. I can't even figure out why, but it's definitely not the best war book I've ever read, to say the least. At some points purely boring. I couldn't make myself like any of the characters. It didn't also help that almost all of them had 4- or 5-letter names, many of them even rhyming, and I couldn't figure out who is who. There's Bell, Dale, Blane, Darl, Doll, Culp, Culn, Cash, Bead, Band, Beck, Keck, Gray, Gaff, Carr, Witt, Task, Tall... and more. S ...more
Sep 01, 2011 manuti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Otro más, que cae.
Supongo que a todo el mundo le sonarán las películas De aquí a la eternidad y La delgada línea roja, pues además debería sonarnos también que el autor de la dos novelas en que se basan es el mismo, James Jones. Aún no he visto la película, pero sé que tiene fama de dura, pero la novela no es para menos. Creo que es la aproximación más real a lo que pasa por la cabeza de alguien cuando se encuentra en esas situaciones extremas de combate, y también las preguntas que uno se hace
the gift
this is a much much later comment: i have trouble believing it is almost three years since read, so certain i recall the film, the resolution to read 'from here to eternity' then this again! i have to read this again...

first review: this is an unusual book, an unusual history of reading: i read this after seeing it as one of my favourite films, so i cannot tell if it has strong images as all i see are scenes from the movie. characters played by certain actors, tropics played by certain islands,
This is an incredible study of war and of men who have participated in battle. This book will not make you feel good; it is not designed for that. Jones, who served in the Guadalcanal campaign, says a lot in his dedication at the beginning of the novel: "This book is cheerfully dedicated to those greatest and most heroic of human endeavors, WAR and WARFARE; may they never cease to give us the pleasure, excitement and adrenal stimulation that we need, or provide us with the heroes, the presidents ...more
Steve Woods
Sep 08, 2011 Steve Woods rated it it was amazing
This book is a tour de force! If you are looking for a controilled sequentiial narrative this is not it, but as someone who has seen combat the exploration of the function ofmen's minds in those circumstances is right on the knocker. Given my own experiences and conversations in the field and often afterwards the themes Jones outlines turn up time after time, often wryly in retrospect with a dash of embarrassed humour but there. The book has an essential American flavour, and much of the interna ...more
Jim Coughenour
Jul 28, 2007 Jim Coughenour rated it really liked it
My favorite World War II novel. I'm tempted to say "sentimental favorite," if that makes any sense applied to this hard-core tale of American soldiers in Guadalcanal. Jones is convincing on the banality, the raw fear, the horniness and insanity of combat – he refuses to romanticize any of it, just as he skips the easy polemics. A gritty, captivating tale.

Fortunately I read the book before I saw Terrence Malik's film – which is excellent, if a bit too austere and stylized. Malik leaves out the di
Jan 02, 2015 Sarah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Give it a miss.
I just couldn't finish this. I got to about page 130. Then I realised I couldn't care less about the characters.

I started to read this because I lived on Guadalcanal as a child, so I was quite disappointed to learn the author had changed the names of hills/towns etc, to render them unrecognisable.

The chapters were overlong. There were so many characters I couldn't remember who was who especially as I was struggling to keep my mind on the book anyway.

There isn't much more I can say, really. Ther
John Nevola
Sep 10, 2012 John Nevola rated it liked it
James Jones is a talented writer with great insights and perspectives but I just could not connect with The Thin Red Line.
I loved From Here To Eternity but I found The Thin Red Line to be somewhat slow and laboring. Perhaps it was the use of fictional settings on a real island (Guadalcanal) that threw me off but I look for, and value, historical accuracy in historical novels. The War was long over when he published this book so national security could not have been the reason for the fictitious
Mar 22, 2007 scott rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This novel is awfully good. Clearly amongst the best war novels that I have read. I really didn't care for the movie when it came out, and after reading the book, understand why: The book is far more about the human rationalization of solidering and killing, than it is about actual events. Internal dialogs drive the narrative, and they are much more accurate than those of (at least from the feeble understanding of human behavior I use to conjecture) other war novelists. There's something masochi ...more
Feb 24, 2014 Chris rated it it was amazing
I imagine many people find this book in the same way I did; after seeing Terrence Malick's excellent 1998 movie of the same name. I'm so pleased I did because it has become an instant favourite.

Set during the bloody Guadalcanal campaign in 1943 the story follows the exploits of C-For-Charlie company of the US 25th Infantry Division right from their first arrival to their final evacuation after weeks of intense fighting against the Japanese forces occupying the island.

The book portrays the soldie
Dec 10, 2014 Alexprado12 rated it liked it
Its amazing how the mind of a human wants to know how things are like without even experiencing that certain topic. In this case the topic of war. If you haven't experienced war your self there is so many more visual, mental, physical aspects to war the average person can not describe without being there.
James jones, author of the novel, does a tremendous job on getting the reader to understand the visual effect of war, by just reading a book. For example, the reader can get an idea about worl
Jan 17, 2014 Doug rated it it was ok
Ultimately unsatisfying, though a masterpiece of construction. Jones's efforts to be rigorous and accurate about war, both technically and emotionally, end up bogging down any kind of thrust to the story. If you don't want to have a thrusty story, fine, but then don't have so many goddamn characters you head-hop around to; give me a chance to work up some empathy over here!
John Sheahan
Mar 19, 2016 John Sheahan rated it really liked it
There are many excellent reviews on Goodreads, from which much background to the author and the battles on Guadalcanal can be gleaned.
My take?
This is an ant’s-eye view of Armageddon. Jones was a veteran of WWII and his experiences show. The pervading mood is despair; where there isn’t, there is insanity. It is an anti-war book in the way that All Quiet on the Western Front is anti-war: the authors tell it like it was for the participants, and it was horrific.
There is nothing to suggest in today
Tsung Wei
Mar 22, 2015 Tsung Wei rated it really liked it
A story of C-company and its role in the Guadalcanal campaign in WWII, involving a large cast of characters, many of whom had very brief roles and lifespans. Several themes run through the book which the author seems preoccupied with. The main focus is the horror of war. The author pulls no punches in describing the inhuman conditions and the unbelievable suffering experienced by the men of C-company. Many, many soldiers died or were horribly mangled. Yet the highlight was not the physical detai ...more
Kevin Summers
Apr 30, 2015 Kevin Summers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sample quote: "A small group explored the little Japanese camp for booty and discovered there the first evidence any of them had seen of cannibalism. They had all heard rumors, but this was no rumor. A dead Japanese man, who apparently had died from artillery inflicted chest wounds, had been strung up from a branch by his heels and strips of flesh about two inches wide had been cut from his buttocks, lower back and thighs. ... The charred remains of the little campfire where they had cooked him ...more
A work of genius. The book has excellent character development, it has an impressive, and unvarnished, descriptive vividness, it's engrossing, and amidst a lot of melancholy it has the correct amount of black humour to balance it out.
Dec 19, 2015 Kay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this book is a 'must read' for anyone interested in the experience of war. Although fictional, the author was a combat veteran and surely drew on his own knowledge in writing about C-Company involving an island invasion to gain control from the Japanese in World War II. There's a large number of characters, each handling the prospect of battle and war in their own way. From magical thinking (if only I can get a pistol then I can defend myself in close combat) to battle fatigue numbness t ...more
Nov 13, 2014 Harold rated it really liked it
Really 3 1/2 stars. This is the second of James Jones's WWII trilogy. Jones has a dense, thick writing style that I sometimes find hard to stay with. There are a lot of characters that can mesh with one another and at times it's hard to remember who is who. That being said it is a memorable book and I'm glad I read it. It presents a realistic view of what warfare in the Pacific in WWII must have been like. There is a lot of time given to interpersonal relationships and the petty and personal rea ...more
Jan 12, 2013 Old_airman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww-ii, 2013
Interesting take on men in battle. Very rough language. Not traditional hero tale.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

James Ramon Jones was an American author known for his explorations of World War II and its aftermath.

His wartime experiences inspired some of his most famous works. He witnessed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which led to his first published novel, From Here to Eternity. The Thin Red Line reflected his c
More about James Jones...

Other Books in the Series

The World War II Trilogy (3 books)
  • From Here to Eternity
  • Whistle

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“If I never meet you
In this life
Let me feel the lack
A glance from your eyes
Then my life
Will be yours”
“War don't ennoble men, it turns 'em into dogs. It poisons the soul.” 29 likes
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