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The Caine Mutiny: A Novel Paperback – April 15, 1992

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Editorial Reviews


Novel by Herman Wouk, published in 1951. The novel was awarded the 1952 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The Caine Mutiny grew out of Wouk's experiences aboard a destroyer-minesweeper in the Pacific in World War II. The novel focuses on Willie Keith, a rich New Yorker assigned to the USS Caine, who gradually matures during the course of the book. But the work is best known for its portrayal of the neurotic Captain Queeg, who becomes obsessed with petty infractions at the expense of the safety of ship and crew. Cynical, intellectual Lieutenant Tom Keefer persuades loyal Lieutenant Steve Maryk that Queeg's bizarre behavior is endangering the ship; Maryk reluctantly relieves Queeg of command. Much of the book describes Maryk's court-martial and its aftermath. The unstable Queeg eventually breaks down completely. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (April 15, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316955108
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316955102
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (242 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 94 people found the following review helpful By Roger J. Buffington TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is perhaps not the greatest novel ever written about World War Two, but it may be the most readable. This is an engrossing, ingenious, and well-written story of ordinary men at sea, placed in an uncommon predicament. Their predicament is simple: their captain is a spectacularly bad leader. This leads to consequences that Wouk develops brilliantly. Wouk's own experience in the US Navy gives this book a gritty authentic feel. The reader really gets a flavor of what it must have been like to be a junior US Naval officer aboard a destroyer-minesweeper. The discussions of officer efficiency reports, the codebreaking duty, casual discipline, and more, all ring true.
The real story is the maturation of Willie Keith. At the beginning of the novel he is a spoiled, overprivileged lad living an aimless life. His time in the service, and the unusual predicament in which he finds himself, hardens him into a true fighting-man in a way that has happened to countless thousands of servicemen. Wouk tells this story exceedingly well, in a manner that most readers will be able to easily relate to. I found this novel to be an unusually good read primarily for this reason. Wouk's writing is first-rate, and it is easy to see why this novel appealed to readers of the early 1950s, many of them with fresh memories of World War Two. The flavor of that war lingers in the novel even today, and gives the twenty-first century reader a notion of what those times were like.
This is altogether a remarkably good novel, deserving of every one of its five stars.
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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Ltc Timothy R. O'neill on August 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
The Caine Mutiny was my first adult novel -- I was 12 when I read it, only a few years after it won the Pulitzer. I had just seen the film, and was surprised to find the book far richer. However much I enjoyed it, however, I nevertheless failed to grasp the points the author was making; that clarity did not appear until I read it again many years later as an Army officer with over fifteen years' service.

I recently read quite a few online reviews, and they reflect a much more contemporary viewpoint -- the original context of the novel is lost in time. One reviewer thought the mood and point of the book were "Faschistic"; others concluded that the point was "it's okay to buck the system." I was reminded of a colleague on the faculty at West Point who was teaching a cadet elective in psychology of abnormal behavior who used a clip of Bogart's performance on the stand at the court-martial as an example of disordered paranoid ideation. Sometimes I wonder what book all these people read!

This is a novel of war, seen through the eyes of a nonprofessional officer of incisive intelligence, one both inside and outside the Navy system and possessed of ability to look beyond the moment. Many readers (or movie fans) somehow completely miss the story's central issue and the critical turn of plot. Captain Queeg was not crazy; he was overwhelmed by the burdens of command, but would probably have muddled through if his officers had managed to put aside petulant resentment and work to compensate for the captain's flaws. Instead, they put a combat vessel out of action during a critical period in the Pacific campaign.
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77 of 83 people found the following review helpful By S. Fackler on December 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
Please read this book.
I was assigned it in high school English, and thought, "Oh great, another war book." I took it home, began my first 4 chapter assignment, and realized 3 hours later that I was halfway through it. I finished it the next day. That was ten years ago, and I have been rereading it at least twice a year ever since. I read it to my husband on a cross-country journey and the miles went by like nothing. It never fails to involve me, and I never fail to be moved by the ending.
A few reviewers have said that the book is hard to understand, or that there is too much military jargon, but there really isn't; there was nothing in there that a seventeen-year-old girl couldn't understand (at least, a seventeen-year-old who knows how to spell "squat".)
This book is powerful, funny, insightful, and moving. Don't pass it up.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Edwin C. Pauzer VINE VOICE on May 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
I first opened this book late one summer evening at the age of twenty-two. Even then, I knew after the first few pages that I was beginning to read a classic. And there is nothing more enjoyable than knowing you are going to be entertained for hours on end by a great story.

It's about a care-free Willis Seward Keith, who enters World War II and the navy as a rich, immature boy, and develops his manhood and maturity through the backdrop of war, and the sufferance of an emotionally disturbed captain.

The boy that goes to war is not the responsible man who comes home. He has the confidence of a man who has learned to lead men, and developed self assurance through his accomplishments rather than his wealth. It is probably how each of us wish that we would develop to the challenges of manhood that define us.

As the book says, Ensign Keith is not the center of the mutiny, but he is to the mutiny the same as the single jewel bearing that opens or closes a vault door.

Herman Wouk is a story-teller of classic stature. His work will always be counted amongst the finest literary achievements.

This is one of the two most memorable books I have ever read. It has been 33 years since I read "The Caine Mutiny." I bought another after the pages of my original could no longer be kept between the covers. That's the best recommendation I can make.
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