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The Caine Mutiny (1951)

by Herman Wouk

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,683473,692 (4.25)162
The Novel that Inspired the Now-Classic Film The Caine Mutiny and the Hit Broadway Play The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial Herman Wouk's boldly dramatic, brilliantly entertaining novel of life-and mutiny-on a Navy warship in the Pacific theater was immediately embraced, upon its original publication in 1951, as one of the first serious works of American fiction to grapple with the moral complexities and the human consequences of World War II. In the intervening half century, The Caine Mutiny has become a perennial favorite of readers young and old, has sold millions of copies throughout the world, and has achieved the status of a modern classic.… (more)

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English (45)  Dutch (1)  All languages (46)
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
The Caine Mutiny (1951) by Herman Wouk. One of the mighty novels to come out of the Second World War, this is not a story of heroism although there are plenty of heroes within the pages. It is not about love and dreams even though the main character, Willie Keith, is something of both natures. And finally it isn’t really about a mutiny, even though that is one of the central pivots of the novels.
The actual movements of the mutiny only take a few pages of the story. It is what leads up to it that garners the greatest interest for the reader. And it is the aftermath of the trial that winds down the tale and offers the reader a chance to decide the justice of it all.
This book gives the reader a true feel for the days of the war upon a former WWI destroyer that has been converted to minesweeping duties. The Caine is a relic of another war and initially manned by a full time Regular Navy crew. But with the coming of the war there is an inrush of the citizen sailor. Young Willie Keith, fresh from Princeton and dabbling away at being a piano player in a New York city bar, joins the Navy. We follow him throughout the course of his war, from being fresh meat at an OCS type Navy school to his arrival on the dank ship Caine.
We see his difficulties fitting into the Navy life, his misunderstandings with the captain, his attempts to fit in with the officers and his rapport with the crew. Things are difficult for him as a pampered son of a well to do family, but somehow he manages to cope and get slightly better month after month.
Then he feels relief when a new ship’s captain appears to replace the old. Lieutenant Commander Queeg assumes command and Willie thinks he is going to have a good life.
We know better.
You may have seen the powerful movie with Bogart starring but, as in just about every adaptation of a novel, there s so much left out. You can feel the days stretch out, the sun baking the metal of the hull, the stack exhaust gases falling and staying on the decks when the wind stalls, and the increasing unease of all involved.
There are the incidents of course. The helmsman who is disciplined for not waiting for the Captain’s instructions, and then disciplined for awaiting instruction when the Skipper was busy bawling out a sailor for not having his shirttail tucked in properly.
There is the “who ate the last quart of strawberries” incident and the thing that caused the crew and officers alike to name Queeg “Yellow Stain.”
There is so much more as Wouk manages to make the boredom of ship life not boring at all. It is like a magic trick that takes you over, pulling you in. And framing the war story is a star-crossed romance.
This book is as powerful seventy years after it was written as the day it first hit the bookstores. This was a runaway best seller, a Pulitzer Prize winner and a Broadway production that became the movie, The Caine Mutiny was, is and will always be a stirring document of men under stress for days and months at a time, and what that stress, driven by the wrong man, can become. ( )
  TomDonaghey | Jul 9, 2020 |
Long and, unfortunately, repetitive. Particularly the trial, in which Wouk feels the need to repeat the descriptions of every incident that we've already seen. I think the book would have been more powerful had Wouk ended it right at the trial instead of after the trial and a long denouement. He seems to feel the need to hit us on the head with a moral.

But for all that, I still enjoyed the story. And I would have liked an even longer story, too. It's fun, and I think Wouk succeeds in conveying the characters and setting. I recently read McKenna's "The Sand Pebbles," also set on an American warship. This book, with its narrower view and ambitions, works much better.

> "Gentlemen, ten minutes before I called this meeting, I sent down for some ice cream and strawberries. Whittaker brought me the ice cream and said 'They ain't no mo' strawberries,' Has any of you gentlemen an explanation of the missing quart of strawberries?"

> "I want to tell you something, Willie. I feel more sympathy for Queeg than you ever will, unless you get a command. You can't understand command till you've had it. It's the loneliest, most oppressive job in the whole world. It's a nightmare, unless you're an ox. You're forever teetering along a tiny path of correct decisions and good luck that meanders through an infinite gloom of possible mistakes. At any moment you can commit a hundred manslaughters." ( )
  breic | Mar 1, 2020 |
Despite being everything I don't really like in a book (WWII novel, courtroom drama), this was unputdownable. Wouk draws a cast of entirely human people, flawed in their own way and also under the immense pressure of the war, and uses it to ask deep questions of when to respect the chain of command. The book is amazing for its ability to draw you into the story so you are rooting for the 'good guys' and then flip all of this on its head and make you question who was right and wrong after all. Heartbreaking, but excellent. ( )
  atreic | Feb 5, 2020 |
The Caine is an obsolete WW1-era minesweeper living out the rest of its days in the Pacific theatre of WW2. It's a ship of no hope, with filth and grime and rust and apathy everywhere. When Captain Queeg is assigned to the vessel, he attempts to impose proper naval discipline. But are his techniques justified, or is he somehow unfit for command?

This was a challenging case and Wouk did an excellent job bringing the characters to life. I'd recommend this if you like reading about the military or ships or WW2. It makes a good travel book because it rewards getting properly stuck in for extended periods. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Jun 6, 2019 |
A classic age turner ( )
  DonaldPowell | Feb 5, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wouk, Hermanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Marchetti, LouCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pariseau, KevinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This tale is for my wife,
with all my love.
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He was of medium height, somewhat chubby, and good looking, with curly red hair and an innocent, gay face, more remarkable for a humorous air about the eyes and large mouth than for any strength of chin or nobility of nose.
The world became narrowed to a wobbling iron shell on a waste of foamy gray, and the business of the world was staring out at empty water or making red-ink insertions in the devil's own endless library of mildewed unintelligible volumes.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Please do not combine "The Caine Mutiny" (a novel) with "The Caine mutiny court-martial: A drama in two acts".
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