The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
War is Hell; and Norman Mailer shows it to us in every page. his marvelous novel follows an army platoon as they work their way through the attack on the fictitious island of Anopopei. We meet some of the older members on the ship prior to the invasion; the replacements come in a bit later.
The book switches back and forth between narrative of the events on the island and short biographical sketches of the main characters. As the battle wears on and the misery increases it’s clear that nobody likes anybody else. Lt. Hearn hates General Cummings, for whom he is the aide. All the soldiers hate their sergeant, Croft, and each other. Tensions flare and it’s a wonder the soldiers don’t kill one another. We see what (I assume) people are like in war and it isn’t pretty.
This was a landmark book for its time daring to show the flaws of our soldiers. It’s a very good read though I wasn’t thrilled with the last part of Hearn and Croft leading the recon through their mission. The part leading up to the climax: the hack through the jungle and the recon was great; but not the final part of that mission. That last bit took the book out of the real and into what I assume was some sort.
Nevertheless we get a clear eyed look at just how difficult our soldiers’ jobs were in the Pacific. Every step was misery.
This is the book that made Norman Mailer’s career – with good reason.