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The Thin Red Line

(The World War II Trilogy #2)

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  12,924 ratings  ·  276 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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Ann J From Here to Eternity (#1), Whistle (#3)..they were published ~10 years apart each, I don't suspect the author 'billed' them as a trilogy, they are VE…moreFrom Here to Eternity (#1), Whistle (#3)..they were published ~10 years apart each, I don't suspect the author 'billed' them as a trilogy, they are VERY different. I couldn't get through FHtE, and I tried, very hard. Thought TTRL was a tremendous book, excellent read, moving on to Whistle now.
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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 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
David Putnam
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this book. The voice was great and the descriptions really put me in the time and place. Highly recommend.
Sep 29, 2020 marked it as to-read
Shelves: war, seen-as-movies
The war movie based on this book,makes for compelling viewing.In addition,another book by James Jones,From Here to Eternity,also became a very good film.

But when I read that book,his writing style didn't impress me all that much.The book was also extremely lengthy.

Sheer length seems to be an issue with The Thin Red Line,as well.The movie takes three hours,too.

The film works beautifully,as it explores what soldiers go through in wartime.Should they obey direct orders,which mean certain death,or s
Igor Ljubuncic
Apr 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Joe Krakovsky
The heroic stand of the of the 93rd Highlanders against the Russian cavalry in the Crimean War in 1854 was referred to as 'the thin red line.' At a time when the standard infantry formation was a square when defending against charging cavalry, the Highlanders in their bright red jackets spread out in a thin red line so the enemy could not bypass them.

This story starts out in WWII with troops waiting their turn to board landing craft to go ashore.

After reading 30-some pages of a 500 page book in
I found The Thin Red Line by James Jones a disappointment. The literary technique was passé, the characters unappealing, and the prolonged episodes of navel-gazing and angst-ridden obsessing over myriad slights -- real and imagined -- rather tedious. Jones's long-windedness turned a 300 page story into a volume of 500 pages. I understand the book's appeal in the climate of 1961, but it has not withstood the test of time. It rated a weak Three Stars from me. ...more
May 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
When I'm deep into writing, reading can be quite vexing. If I read a book that's TOO good, too stylishly interesting, I'll immediately want to write like that (hint: not good). On the other hand, if a book is bad, I'm immediately bored out of my mind. So I'm constantly on the hunt for books that are very good, but perhaps not as stylishly captivating as my all-time favorites. The Thin Red Line turned out to be perfect. It's a well-told story of American soldiers on Guadalcanal--of war and what i ...more
Mar 11, 2011 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
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
War is hell. I first came across James Jones' novel with the Terrence Malick film released in 1998. In that year there were two amazing popular war films released, the other was Spielberg's 'Saving Private Ryan'. I liked them both. However the Terrence Malick film was the more philosophical and held a deeper meaning than that of Spielberg, but both are different films, different theaters of war and different messages. It has taken me twenty years since then to finally read James Jones' novel. Th ...more
Nov 02, 2011 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.
Outstanding account of hill battle at Guadalcanal, the first step in taking back Pacific islands from the Japanese in World War 2. The 1964 book, which was the basis of the great Terrence Malick movie in 1998, was founded on Jones' experience as a veteran of the battle. The portrayal of a company of green soldiers from all walks of life becoming transformed by the horrors and challenges of war and their courage and cowardice into an effective fighting force is very moving. There is much life and ...more
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
Jun 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-fiction
One of the best American novels I've read of WWIIL C-of-Charlie company fighting on Guadalcanal in the hill country, then into the jungle. Soldiers scrounging, finding Thompsons, brewing pickle keg mash, fist fights, and jelling as combat veterans fighting as ruthless as a seldom surrendering enemy. Jones writes in such detail that you can feel the heat and the whine of the mosquitoes. ...more
Paul Ataua
Jan 23, 2021 rated it really liked it
A compelling read on war and what it is like to be right in the middle of it. There were moments when it gave a feel of the terror , boredom, and dehumanization of it all . Worth reading even if I really didn’t really like the writing style, and felt it dragged in parts. Maybe it was because I was aware of similar incidents in the book and the Terrence Mallick movie version when the description in the novel required pages while the same emotion was put over in just one short scene. That is not t ...more
Mar 02, 2012 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
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Probably the best WWII book written by an American. Covering the arrival, fighting and drinking of C for Charlie Company during the battle of Guadalcanal. Part autobiography, Jones is in the heads of his many characters as they deal with the luck and misfortune of fighting a war. His reality is that no one matters when there are plenty of reinforcements, soldiers are just cogs in the wheel, the US Army officer typically looks for promotion and medals. At times brutal, it shows that soldering is ...more
Jul 07, 2014 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
Wilde Sky
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book provides a graphic account of war and how it alters men.

I found this a tough read, it was 500 odd pages of dense / emotional writing with a slow start, but after the first chapter I was hooked by the description of men in war, and how they cope with the crazy mixture of emotions (fear / bravery / lust for glory / rage) they must face. The way that chance / luck / fate played in whether they lived or died was well conveyed. Some of the characters are brilliantly drawn.
Bill Yancey
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Written by the author of “From Here to Eternity,” which was about the days before Pearl Harbor on Hawaii, this book takes place on Guadalcanal. Jones manages to be inside everyone’s head, in combat and away from the fighting. His characterizations and detail are amazing. Even though it is a novel, it is obvious that Jones served in the infantry on Guadalcanal during WWII. A great book (and also a movie).
Definitely better than "From here to eternity". Why James Jones has two books on this list beats me. If the Hobbit and The Lord of the rings counts as one book, why not have both of these count as one? As I was reading this book it made me think of a few of the books I read from the series "The Rat Bastards". Save yourself some time and read one from that series. I must be missing something when I read James Jones. Just not that impressed. Read it if you want, but there are better WWII fictional ...more
110213: 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 i
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 02, 2014 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
Yair Ben-Zvi
Jul 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
An incredible book, a few minor issues here and there, but for the most part a great read. James Jones, as Norman Mailer did in his The Naked and the Dead, paints an unflattering but very real portrait of american soldiers at war in the pacific campaign of world war 2. Specifically the taking of Guadalcanal. But where Mailer's work hold its own as a vision of almost unfathomable power and bravado, Jones' work beats it out as a more nuanced and varied look at the psyches of those americans lost i ...more
Jan 02, 2015 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
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a powerful novel about soldiers during the WWII Battle of Guadalcanal. Written in 1962, this is a shockingly blunt and graphic work that focuses on the complex psychological motivations of and effects on soldiers during war. Jones refuses to allow stock, flat characterization. He discusses issues of human tendencies toward violence, age, homosexuality, fear, and loss. A powerful work in Jones’ trilogy that began with From Here To Eternity, then this work, and ended with the posthumously- ...more
Jan 26, 2016 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.
Zach Riffle
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Goodreads Book Review:

My personal take on The Thin Red Line

I am a war novel enthusiast, but little do I ever read a book so intricate, complete, compelling, psychological, and informational as James Jones’s The Thin Red Line. I would highly recommend this novel. The novel tells the story of not what character, but of Charlie Company (C Company for short). The characters in the novel represent the tragedies and eternal effects of war. Some officers in the company fear their lives, but are seem c
Phillip III
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
James Jones' The Thin Red Line was an amazing WWII novel. I know a lot of it was autobiographical. I did not know it was part of a trilogy (From Here to Eternity, being Book 1).

It covers fear, homosexuality, and war. The battle scenes are intense. The down-time between battle scenes are intense. There is so much emotion packed into the story. Family at home, betrayal, hope, and doom.

Absolutely loved it.

Phillip Tomasso
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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 combat experiences on Guadalcanal. His last novel, Whistle, was based on his hospital sta

Other books in the series

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

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