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The Caine Mutiny (1951)

by Herman Wouk

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,981503,793 (4.26)178
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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» See also 178 mentions

English (49)  Dutch (1)  All languages (50)
Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
I think you could say The Caine Mutiny is a coming of age story. Willie Keith is young, green and naive when he is assigned to the U.S.S. Caine straight out of officer’s training. By the end of the book, he is a man and he has learned a lot about what being a man entails, including that life is seldom black and white.

Waok created one of the clearest, most memorable characters in American fiction in Captain Queeg. He is a despicable, weak, insecure bully, and he deserves the hatred and lack of respect that he gets from his crew, but does that make the mutiny correct and unavoidable? Like Willie, my view of the events changes over the course of the novel, and I find that Queeg is not the only despicable, cowardly man on this ship.

I could have done without the side love story. I found it less believable or even understandable than the shipboard tale. Somehow it also did not fit quite perfectly with the impression I had of who Willie was. But it was a minor part of the book and did not detract from the realism of life aboard the Caine and the emotional strain and everyday details of a wartime navy.

At the end of this novel, we have a more mature and balanced Willie Keith, and by the end of this novel, I had a more balanced and mature view of the events that led up to the mutiny. One thing that a good leader has is the respect and support of his men, and when there is no respect or confidence in the leader, there is chaos. Chaos makes for mistakes, and they are seldom all made by just one person.

I thoroughly enjoyed this unique view of World War II. I am reading all the Pulitzer Prize winners, and I have found the committee doesn’t always get it right. Some of their choices are questionable, but this is not one of them; this book deserves the recognition. It reads as well today, and has the same kind of relevance, as it did in the 1950s. The war is over, but you could find a Willie Keith, Tom Keefer, Steve Meryk, or Captain Queeg still out there in plenty, and if you are very lucky, a Greenwald to argue your case.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
I enjoyed the movie, but it pales significantly to the book. Wouk truly captured the essence of Navy life. the preparation, separation, comradery, fear, loneliness, the good, the bad. I even felt the longing I had so many times at sea waiting for the announcement “Mail Call“, and the disappointment when a longed for letter or package hadn't arrived yet. The Mutiny in and of itself was worth reading, but these pages hold so much more. ( )
  282Mikado | Apr 13, 2022 |
Excellent. Really a 4.5 to 4.75 rating. Couldn’t get the movie characters out of my head, but not really a bad thing since the movie was so well cast.

Only drawback (a minor quibble ) to the book was how much time was devoted to what happened after the hearing and then Willie’s return to NY; I suppose it helped to portray him as a hero to May, but think this part could have been shorter. Otherwise an excellent story, well written. ( )
  jimgosailing | Nov 18, 2021 |
Fiction
  hpryor | Aug 8, 2021 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wouk, HermanAuthorprimary 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.
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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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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.

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