Thursday, January 21, 2010

Guard of Honor (book review)

From The Movie Snob

Guard of Honor, by James Gould Cozzens (1948). Last year, I read a piece by a critic who singled out this long and forgotten novel as one of the very best English-language novels about World War II that there is. So I sought out the Dallas Public Library's old, yellowing copy and gave it a try. I really liked it. Perhaps unusually, it is not about battle; it takes place entirely within the U.S., and primarily at an army air force base in Florida. There are lots of characters, but they are vividly drawn and pretty easy to keep straight. Two of the most important are non-career-military guys: a 60-year-old judge named Colonel Ross and a 38-year-old magazine editor named Captain Hicks. They are thoughtful men, and although they don't necessarily buy into the honor-and-duty culture of the military, they do respect it and even understand its necessity during dark times like the war. A substantial part of the plot concerns unrest among African-American soldiers caused by the segregation of the officers' club. (This was supposedly based on an actual event.) In sum, I thought it was an interesting and well-written book.


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