To the End of the War by James Jones

To the End of the War by James Jones is a collection of unpublished fiction broken into short stories from the author of From Here to Eternity, which was made into a movie, and The Thin Red Line.   The stories in this collection were extracted from Jones’ first unfinished and unpublished novel, They Shall Inherit the Laughter, with the help of his daughter Kaylie and editor George Hendrick, who offers an introduction chock full of Jones’ early struggles to publish his writing.

This collection of previously unpublished writing is a series of interconnected stories in which Johnny Carter leaves the hospital after being wounded, goes AWOL, and moves back to his hometown in Illinois.  Carter finds that much of the frustration and aggravation he felt toward the military is shared by his comrades in arms.  Jones’ collection is more than stories; it is commentary on the machines behind war interspersed with poetry.  Carter’s life is very similar to that of Jones’ real life, including going over the hill as AWOL was called.

“‘That makes a wonderful picture,’ Eddie said slowly.  ‘Perfectly stylized and complete — on the surface.  But there are always so many unacknowledged undercurrents that nobody recognizes.'”  (page 120 ARC in “Air Raid”)

Carter is a story teller, but he easily connects with the outcasts of the army and society, seeking solace in their company.  At the same time, he’s looking for affirmation that what he sees about the military and about WWII is real.  Jones has crafted characters and situations that do not romanticize the war or the life of soldiers; instead, he wants to make their internal and external struggles raw and realistic, as he knows them to be.  There is a frankness to Jones’ prose, but there also are moments in which cliches are present when describing certain military leaders and interactions, like the Irish surgeon who patches up Gettinger and insists the man is ready for duty.  Most memorable are the truths uncovered here about war and being a soldier, especially a wounded soldier — life may look the same on the outside, but there is turmoil beneath the surface that must be dealt with.  However, dealing with that turmoil can be an unpleasant experience.

To the End of the War by James Jones provides a unique look at an unfinished novel that closely mirrors the life of the author about a time in history that has been glorified.  WWII has been considered part of the golden age and the rise of America as a world power, but was the experience as remarkable for the individual soldier as movies have romanticized it?  Jones suggests otherwise, pointing to the aggravation soldiers felt when they were told they would move back into combat after being severely wounded in battles for which they were ill-prepared.  There were rough adjustments for soldiers when they returned home, especially if they lost limbs, and there were frustrating moments when soldiers butt up against officers and the bureaucracy of the military machine.

About the Author:

James Jones (November 6, 1921 – May 9, 1977) was an American author known for his explorations of World War II and its aftermath.  He enlisted in the United States Army in 1939 and served in the 25th Infantry Division before and during World War II, first in Hawaii at Schofield Barracks on Oahu, then in combat on Guadalcanal, where he was wounded in action. His wartime experiences inspired some of his most famous works. He witnessed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which led to his first published novel, From Here to Eternity. The Thin Red Line reflected his combat experiences on Guadalcanal. His last novel, Whistle, was based on his hospital stay in Memphis, Tennessee, recovering from surgery on an ankle he had reinjured on the island.

Please visit Open Road Media for articles and videos.

This is my 72nd book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.


  1. I’ll have to borrow this one from you when I have more time. I like how he presents the war as he knew it, not the romanticized version. Will link to your review on WTTG.

    • I really enjoyed these as short stories and the background of how the novel was batted around…and then he wrote his masterpiece From Here to Eternity was very interesting.

  2. It sounds like this book really makes readers think about war and its effects on society. As interesting as that sounds, I’ll have to think about it because my experience with unfinished novels isn’t generally good.

    • These are parts of an unfinished novel, but read more like short stories with a similar theme. I wouldn’t consider this a novel…I would lean more toward short story collection.


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