Sunday, November 16, 2014

One from long ago: The Caine Mutiny

It's been a while since I've written a review. I've been busy doing handiwork lately, doing a little embroidery and knitting a  scarf because the days have shortened and a lot colder.
It's also been a while since I read this novel, somewhere in 2010, but this afternoon I saw the movie starring Humprey Bogart and it got me thinking that I wanted to share my thoughts on this terrific novel. What novel can say that years after you finished it, it still got you thinking on how great you think it is? Not many, right?

So a trip into the past, when I was still a young lass..

The story line has pulled me right in. You start off with getting to know Willie Keith, as he boards of to Naval school, to become a valued member of the Navy and his enlisting on The Caine.

While he is on board, his rookie mentality is quickly reprimanded by the current captain, De Vriess, whom Keith is beginning to loathe, and his relief when he finds out De Vriess is replaced by Queeg is huge.
But as a shipmate told him. Not all change of weather are for the better.

Queeg soon sets himself out to become their worst nightmare. A haunting in their measly hours of sleep, and a constant awareness when they are awake.
Queeg himself is a typical example of how pressure can break people and make them act out in the most astounding manner.
He is been trying so hard to be flawless, that by this time, he is all flawed, taking his command not with the vigour and responsibility he should be having, but letting his gloomy moods take over and bursting out in short spans, which always end up in punishing his crew.

Wouk has written this novel in straightforward prose, leaving no room for phylosophical bantering and it sets the pace alongside the Caine. When the action is imminent, you feel the anxiety on board. When they are sailing calm waters, you are being pulled into the boring, day to day life where ultimately hours are being smeared into day into weeks.

His main protagonists, Ensign Keith and Keefer, are described in such splendid fashion and style, I can almost smell the sweat on their grease stained uniforms and feel how they stumble through their sleep-deprived days being bullied by an unfit Captain.

I tell you, it's the best book I've read about WW2 so far.
In all truth, the book doesn't revolve around battles in Europe, but around a ship and the men who keep it afloat.
The general atmosphere of the book is one of boys becoming men, hardened men, veterans in the end.
When Keith is being decommissioned I felt the sorrow and happiness men must have felt back then, being glad the war is over, but sad that they are saying goodbye to men they have lived and breathed with for such a long stretch of time.

The book is called the Caine Mutiny, but the mutiny itself is contained in a dozen pages. The court-martial following has a predictable outcome, but you would be mistaken if you thought that was what this story is all about.

It's about the men who made the Caine. The sailors, the officers, the captain, this book is about them.
Wouk paints a marvelous picture of how the mutiny came to be. It wasn't a spur of the moment action, but a consequence of months and months of queer behaviour by Queeg and of bad judgment calls and most importantly bad advice.
As quoted from the novel. "A little knowledge is more dangerous than no knowledge at all."

There are no winners here. No losers either. Just life lessons which make some grow stronger, while others wither under the pressure.

I feel like I can keep talking about this book, but the best advice I can give is to read it for yourself.
Herman Wouk was a writer unknown to me, I can't even recall why I had bought this book in the first place. But it is a diamond amongst rhinestones.

A solid nine out of ten for this one!