A very interesting, insiders, take on the pre-World War II in Hawaii. The book takes place in the nine or so months leading up to and the days immediately after Pearl Harbor. The main character is Robert E Lee “Prew” Prewett an enlisted man who left his Harlan, Kentucky home to bum around the country before joining the army. Prew reminds me of a Hemingway “code” hero. He works very hard to be true to his high ideals even though it gets him in big trouble. The second major character is Milton Warden, a top sergeant in the company Prew has recently transferred into. He is a very tough sergeant but who will support his men behind the scenes. Both men have love interests which complicate their lives.
This novel does a very good job of describing the army with all the various characters thrown together. I almost gave this two stars because it was taking so long to get to World War II; then I realized this was a pre-War novel so I reset my expectations. It is very long and could have done with some editing. There is a lot of repetition in some of the conversations or internal monologues where Jones works so hard at getting his idea across. It’s better when an author gets these ideas across through describing the action as opposed to having what amounts to short essays on topics. It’s what finally caused me to stop reading Ayn Rand’s two novels back in the day because instead of a work of fiction we were forced fed expository essays. Nevertheless I found that I kept coming back to read this novel and put aside other chores or activities. I’m delighted I read this reissued edition which reinstated hundreds of edits which took out the salty language, sex, and homosexuality.
I preferred Jones’ The Thin Red Line; but this is a good novel covering the army before the war.