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An Unfinished Season by Ward Just
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An Unfinished Season (2004)

by Ward Just

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2361348,914 (3.6)17
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  1. 00
    The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (elenchus)
    elenchus: Unfinished Season is set in the 1950s in and around Chicago, but elsewise an interesting parallel to The Great Gatsby in terms of setting and basic plot: class and manners among the society elite, and a young man wrestling with changes in family, caste, and personal relations.… (more)
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Wils Raven is a young man from an unhappy family living in the exurbs of Chicago in 1953. His father's business (and reputation) is floundering as the result of a nasty labor strike at his printing business and his mother is alienated by a distant husband and the terminal illness of her father. What lies ahead during the summer in-between graduating from high school and his Freshman year at the University of Chicago is an exotic (to him) job as a gofer at a third-rate tabloid newspaper and a dizzying round of debutante parties in the north shore Chicago suburbs.

At one of these parties he meets Aurora Brule, the daughter of a prominent psychiatrist, but also the product of a dysfunctional family. Of course they are destined to come together. However, when tragedy strikes, Wils must grow up quickly, and he finds that life hardly ever turns out to be like one dreams it will be.

Ward Just gets the period atmosphere just right & tells this coming of age story with perception and grace. ( )
1 vote etxgardener | Aug 17, 2013 |
This is a very well-written story of a privileged young man's summer between high school and college. It is set in 1950s Chicago and vividly portrays its characters.
The tone is similar to that of Fitzgerald but the writing, although descriptive and engrossing, is not quite as clear. The author even mentions Gatsby.
When I read this book and initially wrote this review, I believed that I had never read his books before. I was mistaken; I had read Echo House. An Unfinished Season is much better than that novel. ( )
  Amusedbythis | Jul 27, 2013 |
Read on Kindle (sale book). Spoilers (if I remember). This is well written, no question. And I guess the young man is supposed to be naive & inexperienced & not know what he doesn't know...but he wasn't very appealing. I guess there is not supposed to be a "bad guy", just tragedy. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to think about the girl's father with the instant diagnoses, it seemed nutty in a different way from the rest of his story.
  franoscar | Jul 5, 2013 |
An Unfinished Season is Ward Just's coming of age story set in Chicago of the 1950s. The year before Wils goes off to college is the year his father sees his control of his business challenged as his workers strike. His mother is frightened and his father begins carrying a gun in a duffel he carries everywhere with him. Wils gets a summer job at a local Chicago paper and spends his time juggling two worlds; the gritty, hyped up atmosphere of the newsroom and the genteel debutante parties he attends several times a week. He's not sure what he wants to do with his life, but he knows he doesn't want to follow along the well worn paths set for the well-heeled sons of the affluent families of the North Shore.

More than the story itself, the center of this book is the city of Chicago and the atmosphere of the 1950s. Just writes beautifully, and here he puts his skills to work describing the politics and manners of a world just beginning to change. Wils is less important than he thinks he is, but what nineteen-year-old is, and its through his eyes we get a snapshot of the world at a very specific time and place. Just is an underappreciated writer of great skill and heart and I'm always happy to read one of his books. ( )
3 vote RidgewayGirl | Oct 24, 2012 |
Ward Just's AN UNFINISHED SEASON is not at all what I'd expected. It was better. It is a coming-of-age kind of story, but several cuts above most books of that sort. Just brings a kind of sophistication and artistry seldom seen in books about growing up and falling in love. Granted there is the knowledge and heartbreak that often comes with hindsight in such matters, but (and I wish I had a little more sophistication in describing this beautiful book) Jeeze, this is one helluva story!

Set in Chicago and its northern suburbs in the early fifties, the McCarthy years, the Rosenbergs, Boss Daley, the heyday of great newspapers and reporting - all that stuff is in here, along with a fine and varied cast of complex and realistic characters, from its young hero, Wils Ravan, his parents, his bosses at the paper, his girlfriend, Aurora, and her sad and disturbed psychiatrist father (a survivor of the Bataan death march). And it all flows together so naturally. It keeps you pausing to consider a particularly good turn of phrase, but also keeps you turning the pages to learn what will happen next.

Just's uncanny ability to recreate a sense of place and era brought to mind at least two other writers I have read with great enjoyment - one is the late Frederick Busch, who was, I believe, a close friend of Just's. The other is Larry Watson, closer to my own age, but whose skill in the aforementioned skills of place and time - as well as fascinating and fully realized characters - were so very evident in his first and most recent novels, MONTANA 1948 and AMERICAN BOY.

But Ward Just is also totally unique in his style and subjects. I'm only two books into his works so far - so many more yet to read, I know. But I'm sure gonna try. This guy is GOOD! ( )
1 vote TimBazzett | Dec 11, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 061856828X, Paperback)

Set in Eisenhower-era Chicago, An Unfinished Season brilliantly evokes a city, an epoch, and a shift in ideals through the closely observed story of nineteen-year-old Wilson Ravan. In his summer before college, Wils finds himself straddling three worlds: the working-class newsroom where he's landed a coveted job as a rookie reporter, the whirl of glittering North Shore debutante parties where he spends his nights, and the growing cold war between his parents at home. With unparalleled grace, Ward Just brings Wils's circle to radiant life. Through his finely wrought portraits of a father and son, young lovers, and newsroom dramas, Just also stirringly depicts an American poltical era.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:47 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Set in Eisenhower-era Chicago, 'An Unfinished Season' brilliantly evokes a city, an epoch, and a shift in ideals through the closely observed story of nineteen-year-old Wilson Ravan. In his summer before college, Wils finds himself straddling three worlds; the working-class newsroom where he's landed a coveted job, the whirl of glittering North Shore debutante parties where he spends his nights, and the growing cold war between his parents at home. With unparalleled grace, Ward Just brings Wils's circle to radiant life. Through his finely wrought portraits of a father and son, young lovers, and newsroom dramas, Just also stirringly depicts an American Political era."--Jacket.… (more)

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