13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A Classic; It's Just That It's Written By An Engineer,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Naked and the Dead (Flamingo modern classics) (Paperback)
I though this a classic novel of World War II, set in the Pacific (U. S. American) theatre. What Mailer does so well is to describe an average group of American Joes, who are not always very likeable, and, taking them through the war, make it all so believable and compelling. The battle descriptions are sometimes horrific, but it is Mailer's willingness to describe the tedium and routine, indeed the pettiness, of war, that is ultimately the book's enduring strength - sometimes war is not heroic or even bloody, but just mundane and squalid.
My only (minor) complaint is that Mailer, who was trained as an engineer at Harvard, tries too hard to make everything connect, when perhaps, in dealing with human affairs, and wartime especially, the point is that life doesn't always connect. Thus I felt at times the book went on too long, a few hundred pages too long, though I want to say it was still a great reading experience, one I recommend to anyone even remotely interested.
And don't stop there! If you like this one, try Gore Vidal's World War II novel, Williwaw, set in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska (a "Williwaw" is a freak storm up there that whips down from the mountains causing freak seas and havoc to shipping - one such storm features in the book.) Williwaw has a cool style and controlled prose that reminds me of Joseph Conrad. Also consider John Horne Burns' WW II novel, The Gallery, set in Naples at the end of the war. This is a lyrical, almost Tennessee Williams' style-novel, about a hick/yob North American soldier coming into contact for the first time with the older, softer culture of the Mediterranean and falling for it, in the form of a decent and beautiful Neapolitan woman down on her luck in collapsed-economy Naples.