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"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 pointless to every man in his outfit, pointless to everybody in the whole world. Who cared? It was not pointless only to him; and when he was dead, when he ceased to exist, it would be pointless to him too. More important: Not only would it be pointless, it would have been pointless, all along."

Such is the ultimate significance of war in The Thin Red Line (1962), James Jones's fictional account of the battle between American and Japanese troops on the island of Guadalcanal. The narrative shifts effortlessly among multiple viewpoints within C-for-Charlie Company, from commanding officer Capt. James Stein, his psychotic first sergeant Eddie Welsh, and the young privates they send into battle. The descriptions of combat conditions—and the mental states it induces—are unflinchingly realistic, including the dialog (in which a certain word Norman Mailer rendered as "fug" 15 years earlier in The Naked and the Dead appears properly spelled on numerous occasions). This is more than a classic of combat fiction; it is one of the most significant explorations of male identity in American literature, establishing Jones as a novelist of the caliber of Herman Melville and Stephen Crane.

475 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1962

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About the author

James Jones

66 books229 followers
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 stay in Memphis, Tennessee, recovering from his wounds.

Excerpted from Wikipedia.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 331 reviews
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,678 reviews5,253 followers
March 14, 2016
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 the film will know, the story is not one based on narrative but one based on a specific philosophy: we are all, as humans, forever destined to never truly understand one another, we are forever destined to never truly achieve the kind of empathetic meeting of heart & mind & soul that we may yearn for - a yearning we may not understand or even recognize. War is, if it is anything, an insane metaphor for that lack of understanding, that true lack of connection, and to be a part of that metaphor is to be, in a way, as insane.

This is a novel of many voices, each individualized and each specifically unique and amusingly detailed. And yet there is a similarity to the themes that emerge from the thoughts of each of the characters, whether they are trying to understand their brothers, their girls back home, their commanders, their enemy, their next target, or the war itself: the feeling of distance. It is a melancholy and confusing feeling. Each one blunders through his life in his own way, barely grasping what is happening around him, barely grasping what is happening inside himself as well. The novel is epic in its depiction of war, but it is intimate in its depiction of the levels of mystery within each of us and between us as well.

It is surprisingly funny at times. James Jones has a mordant voice and he knows the ridiculousness of men, how amusing our little concerns and irritations and idiosyncrasies can be when depicted at times gently but more often pointedly. He also knows that throwing dozens upon dozens of characters in the narrative will confuse and annoy the lazy reader – but how else to illustrate the confusion of wartime? The coming and going of bodies, of places, of times that all blur together. Jones himself was a WW2 veteran, and so the details are impressively laid out – but what is even more impressive is the poetic, sorrowful mourning that is suffused throughout the novel, one that builds and builds and builds. It is hard to imagine the number of his fellows he saw slain, and how it impacted him. But beyond that, to see the melancholy within the man, not just the soldier, not just the circumstance? He is the rare author I would love to have known, and yet the idea of his experience and his sadness is so intimidating, it makes me feel like less of a grown man when thinking of the person who could write all of this down. What have I done in my life in comparison?

It is interesting to compare the film with the novel. The theme of the distance between humans is there, as is the idea of many narrative voices recounting many different things but all ending in despair over our lack of ability to truly understand ourselves, the world, each other. But Malick widens the melancholy even further by including his usual theme of man’s distance from nature as well. It works beautifully. Two character differences stand out: Pvt Witt and Cpl Fife.

In the film, Pvt Witt is played by James Caviezel as a beatific savior of men, spiritually connected to nature and prone to daring displays of bravery. In the novel, Witt is a spiteful hick, also prone to daring displays of bravery, but also an unrepentant racist towards all non-whites, and is filled to the brim with petty contempt towards all forms of authority. I like both portraits, but the novel’s Witt seems so much more human, so much more real. You don’t have to be a saint or even particularly likeable to be brave, to save lives, to accomplish daring deeds, to be loveable. He is a hero, ignorant redneck and all, precisely because he is not particularly heroic in thought – only in deed. He comes through, again and again.

In the film, Cpl Fife is reduced to a couple cameos by Adrien Brody, standing distraught by a soldier’s corpse or looking terrified during a river crossing. In the novel, he is so much more: a dissection of the falseness of the concept of “cowardice” during war. He is full of fear, he calls himself a coward, each path he chooses is one that has self-protection at its core; and yet his depiction is entirely sympathetic and rational: what sane man isn’t a coward when it comes to the insanity of war? Who wants it, who wants to be in it? It is not something to run to, it is something to run from. Fife is the secret hero of The Thin Red Line, the rational man not understanding the irrational world around him, and rejecting any attempt to bend him to that irrational world’s rules. I can see how that character would not translate successfully to audiences yearning for heroes, and so Fife in his entirety barely makes it to the screen.

The book’s great success may not just be in its depiction of the distance between humans, but in the illustration of war as the ultimate insanity. As we all know, World War 2 was the Good War, the one in which we all should be proud, the one with truly golden heroes and truly evil villains, the one we all are glad was fought and would have fought in if we could. We had the right reasons after all; at least that is my own perspective. But a good war is still war, and war entails the deaths of the young, the destruction of lives and of love, of cities and of countryside, of innocence, of tradition, of everything. So why do we love it so?
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,465 reviews3,620 followers
January 5, 2022
“O it’s `Thin red line of ‘eroes’ when the drums begin to roll.” Rudyard Kipling
In war one dies a hero or one dies a coward…
Some die foolishly… Some are lucky…
And the same thing was in his mind now as they crawled. Suddenly, for no real reason, he found himself remembering that young, foolish, innocent, gullible Corporal Fife, that total stranger, who once had stood forth in the dawn on Hill 209 and had stretched out his arms willing to be killed for mankind, and the love of mankind. Well, fuck mankind, that bunch of ‘honorable’ animals. Piss and shit on them. That was what they deserved.
They were on their feet before the grenade shower had even exploded. They ran uphill, hollering and yelling. Fife scampered along with them, panting and sweating. Nothing touched him. On his right the usually imperturbable Jenks let out a long, shrill, screeching, quavering rebel yell. Three men went down hollering in the rush. Nothing touched Fife.

Some desperately keep doing their job and manage to survive…
When he saw the emplacement, he carefully released his safety and fired a long burst with his Thompsongun, straight into the hole twenty yards away. Before he could release the trigger the gun jammed, solidly. But his burst was enough to stop the machinegun, at least momentarily, and Dale ran toward it pulling a grenade from his shirt. From ten yards away he threw the grenade like a baseball, wrenching hell out of his shoulder. The grenade disappeared through the hole, then blew up scattering sticks and grass and three rag dolls and upending the machinegun. Dale turned back to his squad, licking his lips and grinning with beady pride. “Come on, you guys,” he said. “Let’s keep it moving.”

War is voracious and devours all kinds.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,085 reviews68.4k followers
January 21, 2022
The Modern State in Action

The Thin Red Line continues the futile tradition of telling the truth about warfare. Steven Crane and Norman Mailer are among James Jones’s American predecessors but the genre is universal. The scandalous truth is that war is tedious, sordid, soul-destroying, and sexual as well as harmful to life. There are no winners, only broken survivors who share an experience of embarrassment masquerading as camaraderie. No one recovers.

The most remarkable feature of war-memoirs by common foot soldiers is their detailed similarity. Reading them without knowing the era in which they were written, each could be attributed to to any of the numerous wars of the 20th century and into the 21st. The descriptions of military life and combat are more or less the same and certainly consistent, from the World Wars to the subsequent conflicts in East Asia and then in the Middle East. Adjusting for weaponry and participants, the numerous 19th century conflicts from the Napoleonic to the American Civil Wars fit the same existential patterns. The repetition seems inevitable:
“One of the hazards of professional soldiering was that every twenty years, regular as clockwork, that portion of the human race to which you belonged, whatever its politics or ideal about humanity, was going to get itself involved in a war, and you might have to fight in it.”

It is obvious that the private soldier physically suffers. What is less obvious is that this suffering is intentional and has less to do with military necessity or incompetence than military discipline. Foot-soldiers are positively instructed in the art of being cattle. This means bearing the misery of living in rain, mud, and extreme temperatures often without adequate food or water, with nothing but the occasional impotent bellow in response. To survive that misery soldiers establish their own hierarchy within the official one. This informal structure is enforced by subtle but persuasive violence when required and demands the adoption of an appropriate neurotic persona:
“… everybody lived by a selected fiction. Nobody was really what he pretended to be. It was as if everybody made up a fiction story about himself, and then he just pretended to everybody that that was what he was.”
Such fiction allows them to line up placidly in an orderly fashion for feeding, shelter, and transport to whatever abattoir has been chosen by their superiors.

If anything, however, the common soldier’s mental and spiritual anguish is even more intense, because more relentless than his physical suffering. He lives in a state of fear. And there as many kinds of fear for an infantryman as there are kinds of snow for an Inuit. Fear of the enemy and the randomness of receiving a fatal projectile of one sort or another is obvious. But this fear is acute, and although intense, relatively infrequent and transient. Chronic fears of one’s superiors, and the opinions of one’s fellows, one’s reputation among the folks at home, and of the consequences of non-compliance fill in the gaps between ‘contacts’:
“When he analyzed it, as he tried to do now, he could find only one reason why he was here, and that was because he would be ashamed for people to think he was a coward, embarrassed to be put to jail.”

Then, of course, there is the act of intentional killing. Aside from the occasional psychopath, to kill, even at a distance, is traumatic. One may be trained to do it but this training cannot erase a lifetime of prohibition. Guilt for the taking of life is not something that can be mitigated by the shibboleths of duty, survival, or necessity. It is probably undecidable whether killing or watching others being killed is the more traumatic event in a soldier’s career. To kill inevitably provokes the question ‘to what end?’ And guilt is implicit in the only honest answer possible:
“It had all been done, and was being done, for property. One nation wanted, felt it needed, probably did need, more property; and the only way to get it was to take it away from those other nations who had already laid claim to it. There just wasn’t any more unclaimed property on this planet, that was all. And that was all it was. He found it immensely amusing… Property, property, all for fucking property.”

But there’s another kind of fear as well, a dread probably as disturbing as death itself: the fear of abandonment. Paradoxically this fear is generated by one’s established place in a collective. It is the collective and its components - the squad, the platoon, the company, the regiment, etc. - that have an identity. The individual’s attachment to that identity is the equivalent of being imprisoned. Choice is not possible. Even disobedience as a choice is not possible because this simply annuls the attachment and results in rejection by one’s family, friends and the rest of society, a living death in other words. The illusion of a beneficent society is revealed. The Leviathan shows itself to best effect in war:
“It was a horrifying vision: all of them doing the same identical thing, all of them powerless to stop it, all of them devoutly and proudly believing themselves to be free individuals. It expanded to include the scores of nations, the millions of men, doing the same on thousands of hilltops across the world. And it didn’t stop there. It went on. It was the concept—concept? the fact; the reality—of the modern State in action”

That the tradition of this kind of writing is futile is demonstrated by the fact that so few take it at all seriously. And even fewer of them seem to attain positions of authority in the Leviathan.
Profile Image for Ursula.
276 reviews36 followers
March 6, 2013
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 floats among a wide cast of characters as they arrive on Guadalcanal. (A special note at the beginning of the book points out that the terrain and battles contained in the book are fictitious, but that Jones placed the imaginary battles on Guadalcanal because of the emotion the island evoked.) You meet Pfc Doll, Cpl Fife, Sgt Welsh ... just about everyone has a simple, one-syllable name which is also a word: Band, Queen, Tall, Bell, Dale, Witt, Field, Cash, Beck. At the beginning, they're green recruits who miss the relative comforts of army life in a non-combat zone (and one where it's not constantly raining), apprehensive about what lies ahead. Shortly, as they're thrust into the thick of fighting, they become battle-tested veterans. How they react to their experiences is varied, and we are privy to each man's thoughts, reactions and self-assessments. The inability to ever really know what's going on in someone else's head is a theme visited frequently. You often see things from more than one point of view - what caused someone to act like they did, or what they were trying to convey, and how it was viewed by someone else.

I think that you have to just surrender yourself to the experience of the book. Jones' terrain may be fictional, but he is absolutely certain about how it looks and feels. He transports you to the humid, muddy island, its jungles and rocky hills. The progress made toward the next target is often slow, then suddenly shots are fired and you're thrown into confusion. People act heroically for the wrong reasons, cowardly for the right ones, and the reverse of both of those as well. The soldiers are frustratingly human, and occasionally disturbingly inhuman.

If you're looking for Band of Brothers, this isn't the war experience you want to read about. The men of C-for-Charlie company aren't members of Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation," they're just scared young men wondering how they can keep their fear from showing. They fight because there's no way to get out of it. The book explores the idea that a war is fought by an army, but the army is made up of individuals who are each fighting their own war. They all have go through the same things, and yet no one experiences them the same way. Through a number of different characters, Jones repeats the idea that "many more people were going to live through this war than got killed in it," and you realize its value as a mantra when you're in a life-and-death situation that often seems to be a lottery.

Recommended for: fans of Catch-22 and/or The Things They Carried, anyone looking for an antidote to the romanticizing of war, people who know better than to get too attached to characters in a war zone.

Quote: "It was easy to see, when you looked at it from one point of view, that all prisoners were not locked up behind bars in a stone quadrangle. Your government could just as easily imprison you on, say, a jungled island in the South Seas until you had done to its satisfaction what your government had sent you there to do."
Profile Image for David Putnam.
Author 18 books1,595 followers
October 12, 2019
Really enjoyed this book. The voice was great and the descriptions really put me in the time and place. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,492 reviews2,372 followers
March 6, 2023

I started reading this after abandoning Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead - a novel also based on the writer's own experiences in the South Pacific during WW2. I didn't hate it - the novel that is, but my copy was a shabby old thing with terrible faded text and sentences that were either underlined or circled with pencil notes also appearing every few pages. Enough of this shit, I thought, but that's what you get for 50p, I suppose.

No such problem with The Thin Red Line, one of the most impressive of all the American WW2 novels I've read so far. Most of those have taken place in Europe, so this was something new to me. Dealing with multiple characters in C-for-Charlie company - from fresh recruits to experienced ones, you really get inside the heads of many of them, delving into their innermost thoughts, making them feel like your own band of brothers by the end. Seeing their psychologies shift around and how they are all affected differently by combat was handled superbly well. The entrenched Japanese force on top of a Hill and C-for-Charlie company's goal of trying to take that hill - here referred to as 'The Dancing Elephant', make up some of novel's most intense, strategic, and starkly descriptive battle scenes. The island should also be acknowledged as a character itself. From the steamy jungles, steep inclines and tall grass, adjusting to the environment and ease at which the Japanese could be concealed is made even harder with dehydration and exhaustion kicking into overdrive. One could be fussy and say its lack of dealing with larger themes stops it from being an out and out masterpiece, but when it comes to the daily lives of C-for-Charlie company - from the cowards and the slackers to the hardened sadists: there aren't really any heroes here - then I can't fault it.

I haven't seen Terrence Malick's film for maybe 10 years, but still remember it well. There are differences, including some name changes and the fact that it doesn't touch on the homosexuality/sexually deprived subject matter like it does here, but I immediately recognized lines that were plucked straight from the novel and put in the film; especially from the gruff talking Colonel Tall, played brilliantly by Nick Nolte.
Profile Image for Joe Krakovsky.
Author 5 books203 followers
March 24, 2020
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 which not much was happening, I decided this was more the likes of the old TV show Payton Place than the WWII classic (by a guy who was there) 'Guadalcanal Diary,' and being as life was too short, I moved on to something else.
Profile Image for W.
1,185 reviews4 followers
Want to read
September 30, 2020
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 should they refuse such orders and face the consequences ?

Should they capture enemy soldiers,or should they kill prisoners as revenge for killing their mates ? Would their women back home wait for their return or would they rather find someone else ?

Is a soldier a hero because he dies,but what if there is no way out and he has to die anyway ? After all,survival in battle,more than anything else is a matter of sheer luck.
And how pointless life seems,when death is staring you in the face ?

Great film,kept me riveted.Hopefully,the book is as good,too.
Profile Image for George K..
2,434 reviews318 followers
July 24, 2019
Το βιβλίο το αγόρασα κάποια στιγμή όταν πήγαινα ακόμα στο Γυμνάσιο, λίγο καιρό αφότου είδα για πρώτη και μέχρι στιγμής μοναδική φορά την ομότιτλη ταινία του Τέρενς Μάλικ. Είναι μια ταινία που τότε με είχε συγκλονίσει σε κάθε επίπεδο και από τη στιγμή που έμαθα ότι το βιβλίο στο οποίο βασίστηκε κυκλοφορούσε στα ελληνικά, ήθελα να το αγοράσω. Το πήρα μια-δυο φορές μαζί σε κάποιες διακοπές όταν ήμουν μαθητούδι ακόμα, για διάφορους λόγους όμως δεν προχώρησα μετά από τις πρώτες σαράντα-πενήντα σελίδες, και έτσι μέχρι τώρα παρέμενε αδιάβαστο. Όμως φέτος το πήρα απόφαση να το διαβάσω, ώστε μετά να δω ξανά την ταινία και να την απολαύσω για άλλη μια φορά, όντας πλέον σαφώς πιο ώριμος.

Λοιπόν, πρόκειται για ένα πραγματικά συγκλονιστικό μυθιστόρημα, το οποίο χαρακτηρίζεται από τον ωμό ρεαλισμό του και την ακριβέστατη αποτύπωση των συνθηκών που υπάρχουν σε μια οποιαδήποτε πολεμική σύγκρουση. Μπορεί να πει κανείς ότι αυτό είναι αναμενόμενο, μιας και ο Τζέιμς Τζόουνς πολέμησε στον Β' Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο, και μάλιστα στα σκληρά πεδία μάχης του Γκουανταλκανάλ, όπου διαδραματίζεται και η ιστορία του βιβλίου, όμως ενώ οι στρατιώτες που έχουν πολεμήσει ανά τους αιώνες είναι δεκάδες εκατομμύρια, λίγοι είναι αυτοί που μπορούν να γράψουν μια συγκλονιστική κα�� άκρως ρεαλιστική πολεμική ιστορία, όπως πιστεύω ότι είναι η συγκεκριμένη.

Εδώ ο τρόμος είναι απτός, νιώθεις στο πετσί σου τον φόβο, το άγχος, την ένταση, την αγωνία που αντιμετωπίζουν οι φαντάροι και οι αξιωματικοί, κατά τη διάρκεια των πολεμικών συγκρούσεων, αλλά φυσικά ακόμα και όταν ξεκουράζονται πριν και μετά από κάθε μάχη. Μιλάμε για νέα παιδιά, με κάθε είδους όνειρα και φιλοδοξίες, που καλούνται να πολεμήσουν και να μείνουν ζωντανοί και όσο γίνεται πιο αρτιμελείς, χωρίς παράλληλα να τρελαθούν από αυτά που βλέπουν γύρω τους, αλλά και από αυτά που κάνουν. Ο συγγραφέας καταφέρνει να πιάσει τον τρόμο του πολέμου, καταφέρνει να μεταδώσει στους αναγνώστες τα κάθε είδους συναισθήματα των δεκάδων πρωταγωνιστών της ιστορίας, που φυσικά σαν προσωπικότητες έχουν τις διαφορές τους: Άλλος είναι πιο γενναίος, άλλος πιο δειλός, άλλος κάθαρμα, άλλος ωραίος τύπος, όλοι όμως πρέπει να δείξουν το σκληρό τους πρόσωπο για να επιβιώσουν.

Φυσικά, μιας και μιλάμε για πολεμικό μυθιστόρημα, το βιβλίο δεν είναι για όλα τα γούστα, ούτε για όλες τις ώρες. Πρέπει να έχεις και την κατάλληλη διάθεση για να το απολαύσεις όπως του αξίζει. Η γραφή του Τζόουνς είναι απλή και άμεση, με ρεαλιστικές περιγραφές και πολλές φορές με μια κλινική και κρύα ματιά απέναντι στα όσα διαδραματίζονται, ενώ οι διάλογοι είναι απόλυτα φυσικοί. Εννοείται ότι δεν λείπουν οι συγκλονιστικές και αιματηρές εικόνες, οι σκηνές που αναδεικνύουν την παράνοια του πολέμου, καθώς επίσης και οι σκέψεις πολλών εκ των πρωταγωνιστών της ιστορίας γι'αυτά που ζουν. Είμαι σίγουρος ότι κάποιες σκηνές του βιβλίου βασίζονται σε πραγματικά περιστατικά που έζησε, είδε ή άκουσε ο Τζόουνς κατά τη διάρκεια της θητείας του, ενώ σίγουρα ορισμένοι χαρακτήρες βασίζονται σε ανθρώπους που γνώρισε στις μάχες του Γκουανταλκανάλ.
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 2 books1,356 followers
May 20, 2021
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 it means and doesn't mean--that is so much more than just an action novel. It's a novel of deep introspection too, one that sheds light on the manifold mysteries of war: why it's both so terrifying and so irresistible and what happens to soldiers who survive battle, how they immediately try to make sense of a fundamentally senseless series of random events (who gets killed and who doesn't) and the "numbness" that comes over them. The book follows a number of individual soldiers, but it's really in the collective consciousness that this book truly shines. I liked it very much even though the prose style was really nothing to write home about--indeed that's what made it a perfect read while writing.
Profile Image for Igor Ljubuncic.
Author 17 books239 followers
November 12, 2017
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 loosely, only because they happened to be there at the same time, and sought meaning to their participation in madness, to try to justify the pain, the loss, and the lack of logic. Don't expect heroes or extraordinary people, because they are all just ordinary folks who got pulled into war.

One of them wrote a book.

We don't know who JJ was, but I surely know who his favorite is. If you're read From Here to Eternity, you will see some common characters come and go. Part reality, part memory, part artistic embellishment, but they must have existed somewhere sometime, and they found themselves in another war story, because you can't have a war story without them.

I think this book is ever so slightly less powerful than FHTE, but it's still damn good. I can't tell you more, as it will spoil the story. A bunch of green soldiers, thrown into the Pacific hell on the island of Guadalcanal. It can't be pretty.

JJ has his unique style that touches the heart. Like Joseph Heller, like Leon Uris, this man writes his life, so you can't not be affected by what he's telling. And you know that in some way, some form, somewhere, it happened. Brutal, meaningless, inspiring, heroic, terrific.

No limericks, as they aren't befitting the genre.

Roger, over and out.

Profile Image for Manray9.
383 reviews101 followers
September 17, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Brodolomi.
223 reviews105 followers
May 11, 2023
Drugi deo Džonsove trilogije o Drugom svetskom ratu, po tonu i brutalnosti je bliži Majlerovom romanu “Goli i mrtvi”, nego prvom delu “Od sada pa do večnosti”. Tamo gde je prvi deo donosio širu sliku američke vojske na Havajima neposredno pre i tokom napada na Perl Harbor, narativ drugog dela prati jednu američku četu tokom Gvadalkanalske kampanje na Pacifiku, prve velike ofanzive Saveznika protiv Japana. Tamo gde je prvi deo omogućavao čitaocu da zavoli svoje junake, dotle drugi deo, razlilčitim tehikama, onemogućava da čitalac razvije emotivnu vezanost za bilo koga od pedesetak likova koliko ih otprilike defiluje romanom od skoro 600 stranica. (Da napomenem, trilogiju objedinjuje tema rata, a ne isti junaci ili povezani narativ, shodno tome, svaki deo se može čitati samostalno i nije potrebno da se čitaju redosledom kako su objavljivani). Još drastičnija razlika se može napraviti u odnosu na njegovu filmsku adaptaciju iz 1998. u režiji Terensa Malika. Malik snima ratno krvoproliće u okvire prelepih pejzaža na tragu američkog transcedentalizmom jednog Emersona, dok Džons piše roman o ratnoj psihologiji i fiziologiji na tragu pojačanog naturalizma jednog Teodora Drajzera.

Postoji veliki broj romana koji rat predstavlaju kao najveći mogući užas, ali većina njih sadrži u tom užasu kontrapunktove plemenitosti (prijateljstvo, ljubav, porodica, patriotizam, Bog). Džons se odriče bilo kakave plemenite romantizacije i to je jasno još od prve stranice gde vojnici na brodu postaju svesni da su samo živi tovar, a nešto kasnije da u ratu ne postoje ni veličanstvni mačevi, pokliči i vikinški herozimi. Postoje samo brojevi, svaki vojnik je u prometu kao i dolari, svi mogu umirati iz dana u dan, i jedan po jedan i da to ni za koga ništa ne znači, sve dokle ih mogu zameniti. Takva vizija rata je, naravno, postojala i u Remarkovom “Na zapadu ništa novo” o onom prvom velikom ratu. Ali, Remarkovi likovi ipak ostaju sentimentalni i plemeniti ljudi u klanici nove ratne tehologije. Džons, osim što je i sam bio vojnik u Gvalkanalskoj ofanzivi, odlično je razumeo i psihologiju i fiziologiju i društvene pritiske na muškarce. Stoga su mi postupci i ponašanja junaka toliko izgledali ubedljivo da sam povremno imao utisak da čitam dokumentarnu prozu, a ne roman. Dominacija na polju karakterizacije i motivacije nadomeštava povremena štucanja u pripovedanju. A i bolji tekst o tome šta je hrabrost a šta kukavičluk, gde se one sastaju i da li su one moguće u ratu, nisam čitao.
Profile Image for Drew.
238 reviews121 followers
May 7, 2012
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 Doll at least four times each. I normally wouldn't advocate using a thesaurus to help you write, because if you're having trouble thinking of synonyms, you've probably got bigger problems. But Jones definitely could have made use of one.

From Here To Eternity's full of similar things; what I remember most of all was the construction "he ____ed ____ly" over and over again, page after page. But both books' characters grow on you via sheer force of repetition. The Thin Red Line is much shorter, but it's still over 500 pages, and though there are tons of characters, almost all of them get enough page space to make a lasting impression.

And Jones clearly has a good sense of what motivates or demoralizes soldiers, and communicates it well. In particular, I found the interactions between enlisted men and officers pretty fascinating. At one point, several men of varying ranks go off on a special mission, and succeed. Afterward there's a lot of backslapping and promises of medals. Unfortunately, they don't seem to come through, which seems to be a pretty forceful statement about the army's regarding men as tools and nothing more. But then, eventually, they do get their medals unexpectedly. So what does that mean? I'm not sure about that one, exactly. I am, however, sure about this novel's classic status. It's worth a read, and it seems like it's better than the 1998 Terrence Malick film, which is itself supposedly pretty good, although I haven't seen it.
Profile Image for Kevin.
134 reviews41 followers
February 11, 2019
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. The book comes in at just over 500 pages long, with chapters amounting to sometimes near 100 pages with no break inbetween. So sometimes it became a grind, but not an unpleasant one because I found that I became attached towards certain characters, of which there are so many that it does become confusing to work out and remember (casualties, being transferred elsewhere and so on). There is a roster at the beginning which helps understanding who is who in C-for-Charlie Company, that the book is concerned with.

Guadalcanal. August 1942. The start of the fightback against the Japanese in the South Pacific, centering on The Solomon Islands, the first invasion of a Japanese held location after their initial success in late 1941. As stated, the book focus is centered around a specific Company (C-for-Charlie) who are reinforcements for the Marines who assaulted the island earlier on. Green troops with no combat experience essentially. I will try and compare the book with what I remember of the movie, because a lot is different, but some sections totally is as written in the novel. They are both different, and yet deal with the more philosophical aspects of warfare (basically the futility of it all). The main part of the book and film deal with the attempt to take 'Hill 210', a well dug in emplacement by the Japanese. The relationship of the characters is the most prominent aspect rather than any military excercise here, leading to conflicts with the company commander (Stein) and the Battalion commander (Colonel Tall), Stein being hesitant about sacrificing his company against the assault (which eventually after 4 days of combat with no water, high attrition rates and so on, they eventually take). That part of the novel was well detailed in Malicks film.

However, I believe the Terrence Malick film is probably the better medium to use rather than the long winded book, but the book has the most merit in essentially describing the relationships between the men, the dissension within their ranks, the more fleshed out character portrayals, the 'caste' system within the early American military - things like that are, and cannot be translated onto film, unless you want Oliver Stone to make a 4 hour epic journey. Terrence Malick covers the more essential nature of the book into an over 2 hour visual portrayal incredibly well. War is hell. It is an anti-war book, the loss of life, the inter-linked characters and their idiosyncrasies, their conflicts, combat-numbness (you basically become immune to the shellings, the wounded, the deaths whilst being on the line after a certain period of time, etc) are quite realistically portrayed. I do not know who wrote the script of the movie, but the two most interesting characters are 'Witt' and 'Fife' in the book. In the film, after the capture of Hill210, then they are exaggerated completely and the ending is totally different than the novel. Most people would say in most instances the book is usually better than the film version which I agree with, but with the Terrence Malick film of The Thin Red Line, I think in this instance, because the novel is quite long winded, and with artistic license, then the film basically does do what the book attempts to portray, maybe in a much more emotional way. Good book, 5 stars, will read again in another twenty years.
Profile Image for fourtriplezed .
467 reviews100 followers
June 11, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Elizabeth (Alaska).
1,319 reviews438 followers
October 3, 2022
This was not what I was expecting. I have read a fair number of war novels (and memoirs) told from the perspective of the soldier. Most of those were WWI novels rather than this, a WWII novel. I don't recall reading one where the soldiers were filled with such hate and venom for the officers as here. And in this, many of them were also filled with hate and disgust for their fellow soldiers.

Even after reading so much of on the ground in the midst of battle, I still cannot imagine the fear of being a target. I can imagine the revulsion of seeing others being the target. I understand why some soldiers cannot live with what they were forced to see. And, as if that were not enough, so many could not live with what they were forced to do.

This was a straight up anti-war novel. Even winning a battle was shown as a loss for the men who prevailed. And I get it. War can be said to have no winners. That does not mean I believe when attacked we should not defend ourselves, that we should not do everything possible to prevent further attacks. In this, there were some who believed we should not have been fighting at all. I'm not buying that.

The writing style was good enough. There was some jargon/acronyms that I had to look up. LCI (landing craft infantry), MG (which I recognized as machine gun), CP (command post) and I think others. There were a lot of characters, only a few of which were distinguishable. The names were too similar and not enough characterization. Doll and Dale, Bell and Beck for example.

I wish this had been at least good enough for 3 stars. There were parts - the actual battle scenes, perhaps - that make this more than 2 stars. But there was not enough to have me coloring in that 3rd star.
Profile Image for Czarny Pies.
2,532 reviews1 follower
April 29, 2019
Considéré comme un grand classique de littérature aux É-U, "La Ligne Rouge" est le deuxième volume d'une trilogie que James Jones à écrit sur le role des américaines dans la guerre du Pacifique. Ce roman autobiographique décrit les expériences de l'auteur dans la bataille de Guadalcanal (7 août 1942 – 9 février 1943) à laquelle il a participé comme caporal d'infanterie. C'est un excellent roman pour tous ceux qui désirent mieux comprendre la culture et la société américaine.
Comme la grande majorité des romans de guerre chez les américains, on décrit les événements du point de vue des simples soldats et des sous-officiers. Les officiers ne font que des rares apparences. Une raison pour cette tendance est qu'il y a beaucoup plus de simples soldats et sous-officiers américaine qui veulent devenir écrivains. La deuxième raison est que les maisons d'éditions américaines sont conscientes du fait que le public américain s'intéresse plus aux expériences des simples soldats qu'aux celles des officiers. En fait, les officiers appartient à une caste assez détesté aux È-U.
Avant de lire "La ligne rouge", je recommande aux membres de GR de lire le premier volume de la trilogie de Jones ( "Tant qu’il y aura des hommes " ou "From Here to Eternity)" où Jones explique comment et pourquoi les américains n'aiment pas les officiers de leurs forces armées et de façon générale crée le contexte pour que l'on va trouver dans "La ligne rouge".
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,538 followers
July 30, 2012
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 poetry in the dialog, perceptions of events, and internal experiences and feelings. Of his other books, From Here to Eternity was about Pearl Harbor (and made into a fine film), Whistle about recovery from injuries at Guadalcanal (one I read and can recommend), and Whistle reflects Jones' experiences returning to his home town in Illlinois after the war (a "to be read" for me).
Profile Image for Megan Openshaw.
20 reviews
March 28, 2016
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 Guadalcanal campaign in World War Two. The book goes to some pretty dark places; at times it can be very violent and unsettling, and there's a lot of profanity and sexual references. If this doesn't bother you, then I would definitely recommend it!

Things I liked
- How realistic everything was.
-- Jones evidently knew what he was writing about; he makes a military campaign that might otherwise have been boring translate perfectly onto the page. The narrative is constantly moving, even in the quieter moments; when the action finishes with one character, a seamless transition in the omniscient POV takes us to another member of the company, and the story continues.
-- This allows Jones to show us all aspects of military life. Although the combat scenes were well done, I personally preferred seeing what the troops got up to in their free time. Some of the moments when they were roaring drunk genuinely made me smile.
-- The characters are so well drawn you can easily believe they are/were real people. I wasn't really expecting to get attached to the characters, since I was reading it purely for a school assignment and wasn't sure how much it would engage me, but there was one particular moment where I was reluctant to carry on, fearing they'd all wind up dead. Some characters even have their own little habits (such as Stein's constant resettling of his glasses), which contributes to their realism and makes them stand out in what would otherwise have been a faceless mass of generic soldier archetypes.
-- I also felt real sympathy towards the Japanese troops, especially the prisoners. Some of the actions taken against them seemed excessively violent/humiliating, but they made sense in the novel's context. And while I understood the notion of 'combat numbness', it honestly terrified me a little.
-- The dialogue. It's laden with profanity of every description, but what do you expect from a load of fraught men in constant danger and fear for their own lives and the lives of those around them? And it just made some of the confrontations even more effective in my opinion.
-- The setting. Although it's based on a real place and a real campaign, the environment the story itself takes place in is completely fictional. Some of the landscapes I found a tad difficult to imagine, but it was a brilliant display of Jones' knowledge and his experiences during the actual Guadalcanal campaign.

Things I didn't like
- The constant (what seemed like) overuse of description for certain characters. I understand that it was probably intended for emphasis/as a reminder as the book has such a large cast, but it bugged me.
- Some of the characters seemed a bit two-dimensional, if I'm being picky. e.g. Bell was sex-obsessed, Dale was crafty and ambitious, Fife was impetuous and cowardly. It didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story as a whole, but it got on my nerves a little sometimes.
- It might just be me, but some of the constant/near-constant sex references made me a bit uncomfortable.

Favourite character: 'Mad' Welsh. Just when I thought I had him figured out, he'd go and do something that seemed completely out of character. He was unpredictable, and a total bastard at times, but he was an interesting bastard. The only quibble I have (again, if I'm being picky) was that his motivations for acting like he did, that I can remember, were never explained - it's all chalked up to him being 'plain f*cking crazy'. And what was the deal with his constant 'sly' smile?
Least favourite character: I'm not sure about this one. There wasn't really one character who annoyed me particularly, but I didn't really like Tall, Band , and although I understood why he did it, Witt's indecisiveness bugged me.
Favourite moment: There wasn't one that really stood out for me, but if I had to choose, I'd say the ending when all the surviving characters seemed pretty safe. And I loved those closing lines!
Least favourite moment: Just before the attack on 'Boola Boola' - I was convinced everyone was doomed.

It's harsh. It's blunt. It's brutal. And it's f*cking brilliant. It really is a masterpiece of war writing. 5/5 stars. Marked down for a reread sometime in the future.
Profile Image for Doubledf99.99.
203 reviews79 followers
June 21, 2020
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.
Profile Image for David Carrasco.
Author 1 book22 followers
April 7, 2023
”Delante de ellos esperaban las lanchas de desembarco dispuestas a llevarles a bordo, y empezaron a entrar en ellas lentamente para que les transportasen hasta las redes del barco. Un día, uno de ellos escribiría un libro acerca de todo esto, pero ninguno de ellos lo creería, porque ninguno de ellos lo recordaría así.”

La Delgada Linea Roja forma parte, junto a De aquí a la eternidad y Silbido, de la trilogía que James Jones dedicó a sus experiencias como combatiente en el Pacífico durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Mientras en la primera, De aquí a la eternidad, la narración se sitúa en Hawai y se concentra en los días previos al ataque japonés a Pearl Harbor, y en la tercera, Silbido, se traslada a los Estados Unidos para dar cuenta de las consecuencias físicas y emocionales de la guerra en los combatientes heridos y repatriados, La Delgada Linea Roja es la única de las tres que narra acciones reales de combate y se centra en las vicisitudes de una compañía de infantería, la “C de Charlie”, en la campaña de Guadalcanal, una isla en el Pacífico Sur ocupada por los japoneses, donde recibe su bautismo de fuego.

No hay un protagonista o héroe en esta novela; es la propia compañía, a la que seguimos durante la campaña, la que asume ese papel. Jones no se limita a narrarnos con brutal realismo el desarrollo de las batallas y el día a día de los soldados, aunque lo hace y bien, sino que, en lo que a mi juicio es la principal virtud de la novela, se adentra en el estudio psicológico de algunos de los miembros de la compañía y su actitud ante temas como la muerte, el miedo, la cobardía, la disciplina, la soledad, la codicia, la embriaguez, las relaciones homosexuales o los celos.

Aunque quizá no a la altura de Los desnudos y los muertos. de Norman Mailer, que narra hechos similares, La Delgada Linea Roja es una lectura interesante y recomendable para profundizar en el estudio psicológico de los combatientes en una guerra y de qué forma las circunstancias o la mera suerte pueden influir en sus vidas.
Profile Image for Calzean.
2,612 reviews1 follower
March 23, 2016
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 not glorious, it is very scary, very unpredictable and very sad.
Profile Image for Paul Ataua.
1,458 reviews144 followers
January 23, 2021
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 to use words like better and worse. There were other times when the written word really captured the emotions in a way that the movie didn’t. Worth the time!
Profile Image for Raquel.
382 reviews
September 4, 2019
[ história de uma companhia de caçadores do Exército durante a campanha de Guadalcanal de 1942-1943.]

É difícil trazer a guerra para dentro dos livros, é mais fácil falar da guerra no cinema. este livro também tem uma magnífica versão cinematográfica pela lente de Terrence Malick.

"Cada homem combate a sua própria guerra."

É uma descida ao inferno que fica nos homens durante e depois da guerra. Mas há homens que gostam da guerra, enquanto outros sabem que a doença da guerra deixa-os putrefactos por dentro.

Gostei muito deste livro. Fez-me lembrar o magnífico poema de Pessoa:


"No plaino abandonado

Que a morna brisa aquece,

De balas traspassado

— Duas, de lado a lado —,

Jaz morto, e arrefece.

Raia-lhe a farda o sangue.

De braços estendidos,

Alvo, louro, exangue,

Fita com olhar langue

E cego os céus perdidos.

Tão jovem! que jovem era!

(Agora que idade tem?)

Filho único, a mãe lhe dera

Um nome e o mantivera:

«O menino da sua mãe».

Caiu-lhe da algibeira

A cigarreira breve.

Dera-lha a mãe. Está inteira

E boa a cigarreira.

Ele é que já não serve.

De outra algibeira, alada

Ponta a roçar o solo,

A brancura embainhada

De um lenço... Deu-lho a criada

Velha que o trouxe ao colo.

Lá longe, em casa, há a prece:

«Que volte cedo, e bem!»

(Malhas que o Império tece!)

Jaz morto, e apodrece,

O menino da sua mãe."
Profile Image for Richard.
210 reviews42 followers
August 31, 2014
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. The books are not autobiographical, but are deeply personal. Jones served with the 27th Regiment of the 25th Division, which he transposed into his books. Another novel outside the trilogy, "Some Come Running" has its roots in Jones' experiences in returning to his hometown after the war.

There is a rather large cast of characters in this book, almost all members of C for Charley Company of 1st Battalion, 27th Inf. Reg., 25th Infantry Division. Jones takes them across the Pacific in a troop ship and lands them on the beach at Guadalcanal. The island had already been attacked by the U.S. Marines, and C Company was among the forces reinforcing the original assault waves. They all experience the shock of being moved into completely unfamiliar and hostile surroundings. Jones bored into their thoughts and fears, and produced a work which debunked the traditional hero war novel.

The soldiers of this Company find out that they are in a world in which everyone is powerless about their fate. You may or may not survive today, or any other days. Heroics have no meaning. One of the better known passages from the book has a soldier realizing that his actions, whether heroic or not had no point. The world around him wouldn't change a bit, whether he lived or not. There is a palpable scent of helplessness that permeates the pages.

I read this book twice. The first time was not long after it was initially published. It was getting great reviews as the follow-on to Jones' "From Here to Eternity" and it was a war novel, so I wanted to read it. It was interesting and I kind of liked it, although, being in high school, I didn't quite get it. I reread it a number of years later, probably influenced in my decision by the buzz surrounding the movie. The book made much more of an impression on me the second time.

The 1998 movie is, in my opinion, one of the best films ever (I know, there was an earlier film in the 1960's, the less said the better about it). I think the great Terrence Malick film is polarizing; you may love it or hate it. Generally, I think it got great reviews. Some people are put off by the constant voice-overs. Again, I found this also improved with repeated exposure, like the book. I wasn't quite crazy about the voice-overs on my first viewing, but, on a recent showing, found them to be perfect mood-setters, in line with Malick's style (I think it is also exceptionally effective in his "The New World"). This was his first feature in twenty years, and it has also been criticized by Malick's deviation of parts of the story from the book. Among other things, the book has no narrator, and there is no opening sequence where an AWOL Private Witt is cavorting on an Eden with Melanesian islanders. This book, however, almost defies any attempt to make into a movie, and I think it was a good choice by the movie studio to allow a director with Malick's stature to freely use his own interpretation of the book.

Jones does an effective job of separating the realities of those suffering an ordeal, having their personal outlooks on life changed forever while living under seemingly impossible risky and dirty conditions, knowing that the world they are operating in is indifferent to their well-being. Some people get killed, some survive. Everyone goes nuts in some way. Sgt. McCron takes this to the extreme by going completely insane, even exposing himself to hostile fire and thereby, by not being shot, proving the concept that life and death are random in this place. When this unit finishes its assignment, it will re-fit and reinforce before moving on to the next place it is sent without the ability of anyone in it to exert control over the matter.
Profile Image for Abe.
264 reviews74 followers
January 12, 2022
A magnificent novel, one that expertly differentiates its enormous cast through indelible characterization.

Fife is the truest and most insightful: the parts of the book that bite hardest are when he makes observations as to how his survival is a pure matter of statistical chance, and how neither cowardice nor courage matter against the force of randomness.

I love the film adaptation Terrence Malick did, but the disappointment of it is knowing how much of Corporal Fife is left out from the original story: nearly everything!
Profile Image for Bill.
277 reviews
February 27, 2021
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 novels out there.
Profile Image for Ola.
192 reviews13 followers
January 2, 2015
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. Seriously, didn't the author feel like typing any longer surname or what?

I don't like how the soldiers' transformation is portrayed here. They don't know anything about war, but after the first day of the fight - abracadabra! - they're true veterans. Suddenly they're not only brave, but also seem to be the most experienced soldiers ever, miraculously know exactly what to do, and everybody respects and admires them. I get it, the fight gave a real boost to their confidence - but surely going through one or two days under gunfire wouldn't really impress any of the commanders or the older soldiers?

The homosexual thread seems quite out of place, forced and rather sketchy.

Unexpectedly one of the worst novels I read in 2014.
Profile Image for Yair Ben-Zvi.
320 reviews87 followers
July 30, 2011
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 in the tumult of war, both within and outside their thoughts. How does it compare to the movie? (Which I love as one of the most deeply profound sentiments concerning humanity ever put to film)? It definitely stands with it. Not quite as self observant, but more stirring in its action and balancing of the men on the cusp of life and death. If i can fault Jones anything it's maybe his sentence structure and word choice. Nothing technically wrong but a few passages here and there seem to lack the flow that a story as dense as his would definitely benefit by. All in all a fantastic book that you should pick up.
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