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Mister Roberts: A Novel (Classics of Naval Literature) Paperback – September 1, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Thomas Heggen wrote Mister Roberts as a young naval officer on the USS Virgo in 1944. After the war, he struggled with writing after his early success and died tragically in 1949.
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Product Details

  • Series: Classics of Naval Literature
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591143659
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591143659
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #557,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kevin Lane on June 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a fabulous story. Heggen expertly captures the monotony, the cynicism, the bravado and depression of life at sea. The story ranges from hilarious to heartbreaking, and it's sad Heggen ended his own life before writing again. I find it amazing that this book is not on the CNO's professional reading list.
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Format: Paperback
Mr. Roberts is termed a classic of naval literature, but you can take out the "naval." It is simply a classic. And I am amazed that there haven't been more reviews written on it. This book should be on everyone's must read list.

Although the books takes place in WWII, this is not your typical war novel. The USS Reluctant plies the back-water of the war. The author describes the ship and its mission rather succinctly:

"For the most part it remains on its regular run, from Tedium to Apathy and back; about five days each way. It makes an occasional trip to Monotony, and once it made a run all the way to Ennui, a distance of two thousand nautical miles from Tedium. It performs its dreary and unthanked job, and performs it, if not inspiredly, then at least adequately."

The title character is an officer who wants to get in the war, to become a part of history. He chaffs at what he sees as an unimportant job. But he takes his job seriously, and he cares for the crew. It is up to him to run interference between the crew and the somewhat tyrannical ship's captain.

The novel is both hilariously funny and quite sad, stretching from one end of the spectrum to the other. But there is a degree of describing what true leadership means. Not charging the hill or going in to a bombing run on an enemy carrier, but how to be a true leader when motivation is nill. This should be required reading for all new military officers and staff-noncommissioned officers, but it should not be limited to them. Anyone can benefit from that aspect of the novel.

More people are probably familiar with the 1955 Hollywood movie, and while that movie was excellent, it cannot hold a candle to the book. Not to be trite, but if you want to laugh, if you want to cry, and if you want a deep introspective on the human condition, please give Mr. Roberts a read.
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Format: Hardcover
Mister Roberts had the right amount of amusement and sadness, which is the main reason I really liked it. At first I was not sure how I was going to enjoy it. The first chapter started out fairly slow, but this was just because it was an introduction of characters. The rest of the book was much clearer with this introduction. Throughout the entire novel there was a lot of humor. It was a fast read with all this comedy. I really admire Heggen's writing style because he incorporated wit with war. Heggen gave a more amusing account of the war than other factual book could have.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was surprised how short this book is. I think, perhaps, it is properly called a novella. It can be easily read during one's free time, in a week or so. A good deal of the book is comprised of a series of vignettes which are mildly humorous. There is, for all intents and purposes, no character development. We know and learn, basically nothing about the captain. The same is essentially true for the title character. As an example what do we learn about him, compared to Herman Wouk's Ensign Keith in "The Caine Mutiny"? This does not rise to the level of great literature. It does remind me a little bit of "Tales of The South Pacific" by James Michener, which I personally preferred. Additionally, if one wishes to read a similar semi-autobiographical, short novel about a supply boat in a non cobat situation in World War II, one may try "Williwaw", by Gore Vidal. Mr. Heggen died young, and, of course, Gore Vidal becomes an iconic author. I feel these two works provide a very interesting opportunity to compare and contrast two authors and their work.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was given this book by my mother when I returned from serving on a merchant ship in 1945. I had a chance to read it again after all these years and bought a copy for my grandson - it is still so true and telling of a slice of time so important to me and my generation.
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Format: Paperback
After having loved the movie growing up I was curious when I found that Mr. Roberts had begun life as a book. I was even more curious when I found that it was the author's one published novel and that he died before celebrating his 30th birthday and before the stage adaptation starring Henry Fonda made it big.

In some ways the death of the author could be called <spoiler>foreshadowing as his protagonist also dies on the cusp of achieving something big.</spoiler>

The book is perhaps not as great as the movie adaptation but then young, ex-GI Heggen didn't have the talents of Fonda, Lemon and Cagney to bring his characters their additional embellishments. What the book does have is authenticity and I'd recommend it to anyone who's considering spending time in the service. Life aboard ship is not always the harrowing adventure tale that we see in movies and read about in books. This novel gives the reader a sense of the quieter side of military life. And of men in war. By all means, if you liked the play or the movie, then check out the book, but don't expect too much more depth than what made into celluloid.
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