WHISTLE by James Jones
Kirkus Star

WHISTLE

KIRKUS REVIEW

A truly gratifying recovery of Jones' reputation after a long slump since the holding action of The Thin Red Line (1962). Whistle was conceived almost 30 years ago as the capstone of his WW II trilogy begun with From Here to Eternity (1951). The last few pages were dictated from his deathbed last May. Readers will miss the final effects that polish would have brought to these pages, but the story is finished--masterfully finished, with the authority of a clanging manhole cover grinding into place. Once more we are with Eternity's Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt, 1st Sgt. Warden, and Mess Sgt. Stark, who were renamed Witt, Welsh, and Storm for The Thin Red Line, and here become Bobbie Prell, Mart Winch, and John Strange, survivors of Guadalcanal. We follow these three--plus nonRA Sgt. Marion Landers--as their hospital ship arrives at Golden Gate, through their pain-laden trainride from California to Luxor, Tennessee, their hospital ordeals in which hero Prell refuses to give permission to amputate his unhealing legs; we follow the fatherly acts of Top Sgt. Winch (who is dying of congestive heart failure), the carnival of sex and booze in fancy hotels, the men's reassignment back to regular duty--and their final Stateside horrors. If the Prell/Winch/Strange trio represents the spirit of the Regular Army, here that spirit crumbles, goes tragically berserk as the men tear apart from within. They are not victims. Like the knights of the roundtable, they are part of the ritual crucifixion of an outworn fellowship, an idealism bastardized by draftees and mere timeservers. This is at its best an almost mystical book in which the inner psychology of soldiering is much like that of the doom-driven warriors of Homer who hear the gods whistling up their spines--and Jones' dense, long-lined prose has never been more Homeric. Those who have found him crude and verbose in the past will probably not change their minds over Whistle. But admirers of Eternity and Thin Red Line will find him striving to draw the last sparks and puffs from his great single subject--manhood tested by combat--and will feel that he succeeds decisively enough to make this the last third of the great American WW II novel.
Pub Date: March 1st, 1978
ISBN: 1453218491
Page count: 516pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1978




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