Recommended: The Caine Mutiny

Herman Wouk (1951)

I’ve seen the Humphrey Bogart movie based on this book more times than I can remember but I’d never read any Herman Wouk. This Pulitzer Prize winning WWII story seemed like a good place to start. I suggested it for book club and it turned out to be a fine choice–a great read with lots to discuss. The story is told from the point of view of Willie Keith, a callow young officer who experiences a coming-of-age tour of duty on a minesweeper in the Pacific. The Caine is a decrepit excuse for a Navy ship, bobbing around on the periphery of battle. Life on board is filled with tedium, punctuated by moments of intense excitement and Wouk’s narrative evokes what it must have been like living with the boredom and regimentation of life at sea.

When Lieutenant Commander Queeg assumes command of the Caine, Willie hopes Queeg’s by-the-book style will whip the Caine into shape. Clashes with the crew coupled with odd chinks in Queeg’s character plant a seed of doubt among the officers as to Queeg’s fitness to command until an explosive moment of crisis leads to the titular event. The mutiny and its aftermath, including the debatable question of Queeg’s sanity, are far less black-and-white (and therefore more interesting) than portrayed in the movie.

I very much enjoyed my first foray into Wouk and will add more of his work to the top of my To-Read list. He tells a good story in prose that has you quickly turning pages.

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2 Responses

  1. Alan

    I haven’t read Caine Mutiny but will give it a try with your recommendation.
    If you are interested in learning about Judiasm, try Wouk’s This is My God.
    For something that might be characterized as out of character, go for A Hole in Texas. It’s a light, fun read that I really enjoyed.

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