43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2011
The Last Jump: A Novel of World War II is the story of middle-aged journalist, J. P. Kilroy, who is invited in 1997 to go to a ceremony at the White House to accept the Medal of Honor for his dead father. When his mother was dying, she had told him he needed to find his father who had left years ago but J. P. never had. He felt his father could not get over J. P.'s going to Canada to avoid Vietnam War. While at the ceremony J. P. meets a number of his father's old war buddies and wanting to know more about his father he goes out to dinner with them. As he is a journalist, he tapes the conversation and when he uses the rest room the men acknowledge they are keeping a secret from him. This piques his interest but also some of the things they had said about his father intrigued him so he is determined to figure it out what the men are keeping from him.
The book then follows J. P. as he has conversations with his father's old buddies and the story flashes back so we get to know J. P.'s father and his best friend, both with the last name of Kilroy. You see how Jake and Johnny meet, become friends and go through their training and then on to Europe as paratroopers. They were excellent soldiers and found themselves behind enemy lines. Nevola gives you historical and military information about the battles they are involved in and you get a real feel for the horror of the war. You are on Omaha Beach with them as the bullets buzz by.
In addition to seeing the front lines, both of the men have girls back in the states so you get to see what it was like in America during the war. There is a glimpse of the women who were working in the shipyards, and those who were WACS and flying airplanes to transporting goods but not allowed in combat situations. You saw how the role of women was changing and how the people back home were sacrificing for the war.
The story progresses and J. P. is older, now 60 and wiser. His father's old friends are dying off. He had told he has everything he needs to figure out the secret but he still can't solve it until he meets someone else connected to his father and it all comes together.
This story has romance, mystery, and action. As it the story moves between time periods and places, Nevola has the geographical place and date as the chapter titles so there is no confusion. I also appreciated the quotations that begin each chapter. Nevola has done his homework and gives the historical background and though a few times I felt like I was reading a history book, most of the time the fictional story and historical information flowed smoothly. Since the story is dealing with soldiers there is some salty language and there are several graphic descriptions of the horrors of the war.
This is a sweeping novel that gives a picture of a different time in America and Nevola has given the reader a sense of why Tom Brokaw called that generation the Greatest Generation.
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2010
While The Last Jump is the fictional account of several key players' participation in the events of World War Two, it contains an encyclopedia of period minutiae, and memories that define those years culturally, and historically. Encapsulated within 525 pages of educational reading, told with the help of a darn good yarn, a reader can learn as much about United States history from 1940 thru 1945 here as in anything that has ever been written. Detailed history in a love story that is representative of a million like it, going on at the same time, in every branch of the service, the reader gets a beautiful look at how it was to be an American at war during that time.
There is nothing dry here; anything but. This might be the first romantic military history book ever written that should have "all women should read" stamped on the cover. Men too, of course, by all means. This reviewer, a history buff, learned plenty. Another good movie candidate.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
There are lots of novels of World War Two, but not many as good as this one. This novel truly gives a flavor for what it was like to be an American soldier during that conflict. It also has numerous sub-plots, all nicely woven together, about civilian workers, mainly women, who during that war, for the first time, were recruited to be pilots, shipyard workers, and factory workers. The attitudes and motivations of the people of America during this time is the real theme of this novel.
This novel's strongest suit is its readability. This one captured my interest right away and held it to the end. Primarily this story revolves around two soldiers who are buddies in the Airborne, with flashbacks involving the son of one of the soldiers seeking to find out more about his father's service in the War. The prose in this novel is far above average, and this novel accomplishes the not-inconsiderable task of acquainting the reader with many historical aspects of the War through the actions and experiences of fictional characters rather than narration. This novel is unabashedly in opposition to historical revisionism, and through its characters reflects the moral certainty that was characteristic of most Americans at that time. During the War and for a long time thereafter, very few Americans doubted the justness of America's cause in the War, or the fundamental difference between America and the Western Allies, on the one hand, and the Axis Powers on the other. And it does so with very little by way of preaching or politicization. Americans of that time simply believed America's cause and conduct of the War were just.
While this novel has a point to make, and makes it well, its strong suit is that it is one entertaining novel. Highly recommended.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2012
This was a great book, contained it all, action, adventure,friendship and love. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who had someone who served in WW11 or any conflict this counrty has been in. It tells of the frienships and close bonds that soldiers & civilians made,their honor and loyalty to one another. This book made me laugh,cry and realize how much the country went thru during the war. It is a book that causes lots of emotion as you read it. I only wish it had a European map in the front or back for a reference to the locations talked about in the book.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2011
Students and buffs of WWII should read this book. It is about two soldiers, not related, who share the name John Kilroy, plus the son of one of them, also named John Kilroy. (The author remarks upon the cartoon-like "Kilroy was here" signature that appeared all over the European Theater of Operations in the wake of American GIs, but otherwise does not suggest that his protagonists have any connection to the cartoon.)
The book consists of two intertwined stories: (1) the two soldiers as close buddies in training and combat; and (2) the youngest Kilroy in the 1990s and later as he searches for information about his father. There is a deep, well-hidden mystery for him to solve.
The soldier Kilroys, plus some of their comrades, go through paratrooper training and take part in a number of jumps and other combat adventures in Sicily, mainland Italy, Normandy, and the Western Front. These parts of the book are exceptionally well written. One might think that we've had enough ethnically diverse "bands of brothers" in our literature, but Mr. Nevola breathes new life into the genre with his mastery of paratrooper life, technology, and combat history.
I was not so impressed by the romantic aspects of the book. Yet I will admit that the soldiers' love interests held my attention, largely because some of the women characters are keys to the great mystery that the youngest Kilroy tries to figure out--with the help of his own love interest.
The underlying philosophy of this book appears to be conservative in terms of present-day political thinking. This comes out clearly in several places where some of the characters voice their opinions on ancient history (of all things), WWII history, and even the future prospects of 21st century America. These opinions are in character for those expressing them, but apparently reflect the author's beliefs as well. On the other hand, in terms of 1940s thinking, most of the characters are quite liberal on the subject of gender and racial equality.
I found only a few historical slips. For instance, German Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus did not have a "von" in his name, and German General Alfred Jodl was not Chief of the Armed Forces High Command--that was Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel; and the like. Minor matters, but, as a professional historian, I would also respectfully quarrel with one of the character's views on the so-called "Fall" of the Roman Empire" and its supposed "lesson" for us moderns.
But obviously a few controversial pages do not detract from this book's fine qualities. I have seldom read such vivid and exciting accounts of battle; moreover, the reader empathizes with Mr. Nevola's paratroopers, making his descriptions of combat all the more affecting.
33 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2011
"The Last Jump: A Novel of World War II," by John E. Nevola is barely readable. I am amazed that this long and often boring story receives such universal accolades from reviewers. I disagree with the substance of most of the laudatory reviews.
The love stories are junior high school and high school stuff, filled with juvenile blood pacts and silly loyalties to each others "secrets. " Much of the dialogue is immature and inane. The dialogue is painful to read causing this reader to constantly wince.
However, many of the actual military combat scenes are well-written and enjoyable, but hardly the stuff of better-written "page-turners" penned by more competent authors. The North African, Sicily, Rome and Battle of the Bulge episodes were interesting. D-Day was so-so, and extraordinarily confusing. These actual battle and combat scenes are the only part of the book worth reading, however. A few maps here and there would have added a great deal to the substance of the stories.
I wonder if anyone ever has fact-checked any of the author's assertions and claims about the leadership and actual statistics about the war? There's a lot of opinion and chest-thumping going on here, to say nothing of the sheer over-abundant plaudits for paratroopers at the grave expense of almost all other U.S. military units. Why all this adolescent competition and defensiveness?
My personal complaint is that for the life of me, I could not keep separate or differentiate between the confusing two main characters -- who share a common name. About ¾ of the way through the book, I just gave up trying to keep in mind which Kilroy was which. It is this name identity phenomenon, of course, on which the mystery part of the story depends. The mystery itself is phony and the solution to the mystery is apparent long before the author decides to reveal it. Actually the mystery part of the story is annoying more than anything. Those long, drawn out dinner and other meetings between the old guys from WWII and the son of one of the dead ones who is trying to solve the mystery of who his father is, is painfully over-long and fundamentally uninteresting. These conversations are not a satisfying way to "learn" your history of WWII.
Often, the novel reads like a modern day ultra right-wing tea party manifesto about flag and patriotism, while condemning progressive elements of society.
I am a big reader of and am fascinated by World War II (especially ETO) and probably have read more than 125 such books about this extraordinary era in history. I would rank this book in the bottom 15% of those I've read about WWII. It is way too long and way too boring. I found it easy to put down and hard to pick back up.
At best it's a 3 on Amazon's rating scale, and I feel generous in giving it a rating that high.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2012
Great book. This really captures the personal level of what war is all about it. It gives a glimpse into the "Greatest Generation" and how they pulled themselves through the difficulties of war, love, sacrifice and friendship. The battles are detailed and written in such a way that I felt like I was standing on the sidelines. Incredible book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2012
I"m doing something a little different this time. Let's talk about everything that is good before looking at the other side.
For the historians in us, this is an excellent read. If you know nothing of WWII in Europe, Mr. Nevola is going to take the reader on a great tour from North Africa to to Berchtesgarden and home. He does an excellent job in detailing the fear and terror the parachutist faced as they were dropped behind enemy lines and struggled to perform their mission orders even when all appears to be lost. For those who have a hard time understanding how Germans could lose battles they should have won, you find out how American Grit overcomes professionally trained soldiers who had been fighting for four years and battle hardened. What the Germans could never train for was American ingenuity and tenacity. Germany decided to start the conflict and relied on traditional military tactics to carry them to victory. One thing the manuals never taught was how to combat the human spirit. Our men and boys were drafted or signed up to do a job. Our men wanted to get back home to their sweethearts and jobs and each time one of their own was killed, it triggered an un-ending desire to avenge their buddies deaths and return to their lives and jobs.
Mr. Nevola does a wonderful job in detailing how fiercely loyal the men were to each other. He also provides a great look into a country that became united, no matter what political affiliations people were. America had three common enemies, Japan, Germany and Italy.
Ladies, there is a very heart warming story through the travel. Many women were faced with the unnerving thought of if and when their man would return. WWII propelled woman into the work force and guaranteed their place in rebuilding a battered country. Their contribution to date is still not at the forefront of fueling the labor that allowed the industrial base to blossom overnight. The woman of this age were just as strong and resolute as the men who fought on the battlefields. At times they made decisions(about love) that would be shunned today so they could sleep at night. Their men were in for the long haul as were they. How many women today could bare a loved one being gone for over two or three years and then being forced to make a decision about waiting for him after receiving the dreaded Western Union Telegram? I believe Goldie was in a movie portraying women of this time. She did a commendable job.
What didn't I like. The constant time line changes in the first third of the book was very distracting and I almost didn't finish this. Just as I was settling in and understanding the characters, the time line switches back to 1942 or 1997. I realize Mr. Nevola was paralleling the lives of Macie, Jake, John, Nora, Rose, Sky, Harry, and the son J.P. Kilroy, but it was overdone for my tastes. I felt at times I was in a tennis match for the first third of the book.
Overall, this is a must read for those who wish to know the mindsets and steadfastness of our "Greatest Generation."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2012
I have read a lot of historical novels about WWII...most of the others were about the personal lives of private citizens (in Europe) and what they went through, except for one I read about what happened in Australia.
This is the first WWII historical novel I have read that actually details much of the war itself. The book is nicely woven with the personal lives of characters, and makes it much more enjoyable than reading a non-fiction book would have been. It really made me understand how tough that war was on our soldiers, and also made me grateful that when we go to war these days, it is much more thought out, and not as many people lose their lives. I will always feel one life lost is too many and that we really need to do everything we can to avoid wars, but this war was a tragedy of errors that is just hard to fathom.
The description of the D-Day landing is quite detailed, and actually horrific. This was very necessary to the story, but it actually made me queasy reading it...and to think those men were sent in when Eisenhower had a good idea that it would not turn out well just disgusted me...Do not start reading that part late at night, because you will not be able to put the book down until you finish the D-day invasion...
I did not fact check the things that were part of this book, but assume the details of the various campaigns in the war were fact based...it seemed to be a well researched book.
The only complaint I have is that even though I was in the military (medical field) for 13 years, I was lost on some of the acronyms...it would have been more helpful had the writer put in parenthesis what the acronyms stood for the first time he used them. Sometimes knowing what the acronym stood for was important, so I feel like I did not understand some parts (such as what type of units various units were) as well as I could have.
Overall it is a great book,, but this is not a "light weight" historical novel...be ready to have your heart broken over some of the things that happened during this war. So many lives lost needlessly...it made me very angry at the government and military of that time...
It made me angry to read about the useless waste of life...so many of those men did not have to die, but they did because "the brass" and the government did a lot of stupid things. So many families suffered the loss of loved ones that they did not have to but for the stupidity of our government at that time. Be prepared to get angry, as you most certainly will.
This is a gut wrenching novel, so don't read it if you are expecting a sweet romantic novel, as the romantic parts of this really take a back seat to the details of the war.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2012
I just happened to read this book because it was free for Kindle at the time - what a lucky choice! I felt like I learned more about World War II than anything I have read or seen to date and that I had a sense of how it might have felt both to serve and to be supporting the war back in the states. The story is about two soldiers who share the same name and the now-grown son of one of them. The son, J.P. Kilroy, begins talking with old war buddies of his father's in an effort to uncover a secret about his father. A little over halfway through the book the reader will know what the secret is, but as his father's friends pass away one by one you're not sure if J.P. will find out before it's too late. I wasn't sure if I really cared for the "secret" at first because it seemed as though keeping it may have done more harm than good, but I realized that it was an illustration of true honor, sacrifce and the importance of a man's word. Right or wrong, J.P.'s parents and friends did what they felt was best and their decisions were made out of love. J.P. does not start out as a particularly likeable character but there is a slow transformation and redemption in the end.
I am not a World War II buff by any means but I was absolutely riveted by the stories of the battles and almost overwhelmed by the loss of life. I appreciate how the author wove in stories about the contributions of women and African Americans during the war and made us realize how many of their efforts went unrecognized. This truly is a book for all generations - I want my eleven year old daughter to read it in a few years as well.