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From a distinguished chronicler of American social history and political culture, An Unfinished Season captures the postwar moment of the 1950s when the modern world lay just over the horizon. In a time of rabid anticommunism, worker unrest, and government corruption, even the small-town family could not escape the nationwide suspicion and dread of "the enemy within." From a distinguished chronicler of American social history and political culture, An Unfinished Season captures the postwar moment of the 1950s when the modern world lay just over the horizon. In a time of rabid anticommunism, worker unrest, and government corruption, even the small-town family could not escape the nationwide suspicion and dread of "the enemy within."


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From a distinguished chronicler of American social history and political culture, An Unfinished Season captures the postwar moment of the 1950s when the modern world lay just over the horizon. In a time of rabid anticommunism, worker unrest, and government corruption, even the small-town family could not escape the nationwide suspicion and dread of "the enemy within." From a distinguished chronicler of American social history and political culture, An Unfinished Season captures the postwar moment of the 1950s when the modern world lay just over the horizon. In a time of rabid anticommunism, worker unrest, and government corruption, even the small-town family could not escape the nationwide suspicion and dread of "the enemy within."

30 review for An Unfinished Season (Audiofy Digital Audiobook Chips)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    Ward Just's new novel, "An Unfinished Season," is a strange act of historical ventriloquism. A 60-year-old narrator in the early 1990s recalls a summer in the 1950s in a voice that sounds like F. Scott Fitzgerald memorializing the 1920s. It's not so much that you can't put it down, but that you shouldn't put it down because the moment you stop reading, the spell breaks and you're left with the aftertaste of pretentious insight. For Wilson Ravan, the summer before college was a time of momentous c Ward Just's new novel, "An Unfinished Season," is a strange act of historical ventriloquism. A 60-year-old narrator in the early 1990s recalls a summer in the 1950s in a voice that sounds like F. Scott Fitzgerald memorializing the 1920s. It's not so much that you can't put it down, but that you shouldn't put it down because the moment you stop reading, the spell breaks and you're left with the aftertaste of pretentious insight. For Wilson Ravan, the summer before college was a time of momentous change. His wealthy family lives in a rural town on the North Shore of Chicago, removed from both the high society and the industry of the city. His father is a powerful man who owns a printing company. His mother is a brittle woman with nothing to do but cook and knit. After years of paternalistic management, the printing plant suffers a strike that shocks Mr. Ravan and breaks his confidence. Cold-war paranoia quickly transforms a dispute about salaries and bonuses into a cosmic battle, a face-off between a hardworking American owner and godless strikers controlled by their evil bosses in the Soviet Union. With his liberal prep-school education, 19-year-old Wilson sees all this as political hyperbole, but when his father starts carrying a gun and a brick flies through their window, his amusement is displaced by awe. "I was watching him," Wilson says, "in order to learn what it was to be a man, with a man's burdens, how to behave in adversity." That's a typically slippery comment from this maddening narrator, who oozes earnest sincerity and weighty import. Yes, he watches his father to learn what it is to be a man, but only the way Jane Goodall watches gorillas. No matter how much Wilson admires the man's strength or cherishes his advice on alcohol and women, he remains fundamentally superior. Even when he laments his own ignorance, it's in such grandiose terms that he sounds burdened with special wisdom. Wilson is that most treacherous of friends (and narrators), the humble, self-effacing observer who wants only to witness and understand the challenges other people face. Through his father's connections, he gets a summer job at a scrappy downtown newspaper where he relishes the wheeling and dealing of city life, soaking up the secret details of stories that never make it into print. But there's a craving, unseemly quality to how much he loves this job, watching the "carnival of love nests, revenge killings, slumlords, machine draft, and Communists deep in the apparatus of state and national government." After work, he lurks around city bars, listening to jazz with soulful sensitivity no other white man could match. And in the evenings, he adopts his bon vivant persona, dons a tuxedo from Brooks Brothers, and attends an endless stream of debutante balls lifted from "The Great Gatsby," complete with a revival of the Charleston. At one of these parties, he falls madly in love with a similarly precocious young woman and gets swept up into a family tragedy from World War II that's completely beyond his ability to comprehend or negotiate. Wilson claims, "I was inhabiting three parallel worlds: the newspaper, the parties, and the house." But in fact, he inhabits only one: his own romantic voice, full of gorgeous despair, a bubble of sepia tones. "I knew I was traveling from one realm to another, crossing the line that divided youth from maturity, and that this moment had tremendous weight and that I would refer to it often and that later on it would have more than one meaning." Tremendous weight, indeed. Poor Wilson carries a load of such moments, polished into little gems from years of fondling. What's most unnerving about this novel is that the author so rarely tips his hand or breaks through his narrator's overwrought sensitivity to let us know that he, too, finds all this a bit rich. "I shivered in the chill," Wilson says, "looking at the constellations and Chicago's sulfurous glow on the Southern horizon, wishing to God I was five years older." But with a voice like this, if he were five years older, he'd be collecting Social Security. It's such a pleasure when, on Wilson's last day at work, the editor turns on him suddenly and unleashes a biting critique of the young man's disdain for concrete information, his affection for mystery and affect. Utterly unfazed, Wilson walks away from the newsroom, rhapsodizing the wonders of gritty Chicago life, and spends the afternoon looking at Impressionist paintings at the Art Institute. It's a wonderful irony, completely lost on Wilson, who knows so much and so little at the same time. An epilogue 40 years later shows Wilson as a career diplomat for the United Nations, the perfect job for a man burdened by a sense of superior insight and the desire to mediate others' complex lives. "I have never had the slightest illusion that I could bend the world to my will," he tells us in the closing pages, "and I refused to bend to the world's, so I have lived a kind of shadow life." I want to think that Just intends the irony here, but the luxurious lines that Wilson gets to deliver all the way to the end about the romantic tragedy of his life suggest otherwise. "I was the mariner who had seen the surface of the sea," he sighs, "but had no knowledge of life beneath it." If you fall in love with that voice, as the author did, "The Unfinished Season" is a moving and beautiful reminiscence of a time of great change. "I was 19 years old," he writes, "and that was my view of things after my circus summer." The self-conscious artifice of this testimony makes that an essentially dishonest claim. http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0706/p1...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Set in 1950s Chicago (and its environs), this is a coming-of-age tale that hints at being something great but instead falls into worn-out plotlines (in the past year, I can recall reading at least two other novels with similar plots and resolutions). The story of nineteen-year-old Wils Ravan hits the ground running with a unique style and a plot and setting interwoven so as to suggest a richly nuanced story. The promising start, however, gives way to drawn-out introspection and wisps of somethin Set in 1950s Chicago (and its environs), this is a coming-of-age tale that hints at being something great but instead falls into worn-out plotlines (in the past year, I can recall reading at least two other novels with similar plots and resolutions). The story of nineteen-year-old Wils Ravan hits the ground running with a unique style and a plot and setting interwoven so as to suggest a richly nuanced story. The promising start, however, gives way to drawn-out introspection and wisps of something substantial before sputtering to a clichéd ending. There’s some truly beautiful writing here and some keen insights into the tension of the 1950s, but they’re little more than window dressing. If anything, as a reader, I resent a writer thinking a few bells and whistles will make me consider a book serious literature when it has all the trappings of a nighttime soap opera. In short, this is merely one more story about rich teenagers encountering Real Life and discovering Real Life is harder than it seems. Not recommended.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Hol

    I was slow getting into this, in part because of style. A paragraph can last a couple pages (in one case, a chapter’s length); at times I found myself drifting into Editorial Mind, imagining where I would break it. Also, the author doesn’t set off dialogue with quotation marks, so it can be an effort to differentiate it from other text. But my larger problem was that the first half of the book felt like it was populated with male “types”--the taciturn father, the salty guys in the newsroom, etc. I was slow getting into this, in part because of style. A paragraph can last a couple pages (in one case, a chapter’s length); at times I found myself drifting into Editorial Mind, imagining where I would break it. Also, the author doesn’t set off dialogue with quotation marks, so it can be an effort to differentiate it from other text. But my larger problem was that the first half of the book felt like it was populated with male “types”--the taciturn father, the salty guys in the newsroom, etc. Yawn. Later, however, when the narrator meets his girlfriend and her father, the story felt suddenly alive and engaged with larger themes. After that I was engrossed. I wish I didn’t have these complaints, because Just is such an accomplished writer; the setting (Chicago in the 1950s) is magnificently realized. There’s also an epilogue set decades later, almost epic but done with a light touch, that was so good it nearly overrode my earlier ambivalence.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chris Gager

    I bought this book at the local library's book sale last summer w/o realizing that it was already on my to-read list. Some friends were visiting recently and one of them spotted this on my shelves and recommended the author highly. I'll read this while I'm waiting for my Jack Vance I.L.L. to arrive. Started last night. Some suggestions of Richard Yates, James Salter and William Maxwell. Not much to say about this book so far. It's very well written, but the style is not flashy. Our narrator/observ I bought this book at the local library's book sale last summer w/o realizing that it was already on my to-read list. Some friends were visiting recently and one of them spotted this on my shelves and recommended the author highly. I'll read this while I'm waiting for my Jack Vance I.L.L. to arrive. Started last night. Some suggestions of Richard Yates, James Salter and William Maxwell. Not much to say about this book so far. It's very well written, but the style is not flashy. Our narrator/observer is a young man(only child) of an upper middle class suburban Chicago family. He's about to transition to life as a college student. It's the early years of Eisenhower - think 1953 - and nothing too flashy or dramatic(with one clear exception) is going on. I suppose you could say it's a bit dated, but none of that has been an issue with me so far. VERY male-focused for sure. I see that another G'reads reviewer has described the author's style as "stately." Indeed ... another connection(style-wise) - "Stoner" by John Williams. Moving into the midsection now and being reminded a bit of Fitzgerald ... young summer love in the upper class in the upper Midwest. I'm making slow progress through this contemplative look-back book. Once again I see the similarities to James Salter. Wils the loner seems to have found a dream girl, but they're both so young. A heart-achy-head-achy conclusion seems inevitable. Oh well ... And now, as the endgame unfolds ... the final act, as it were, and something happens - again - and Wils' 19 year-old world is turned upside down. Marlon Brando makes an appearance(Adlai Stevenson passed by earlier), and I assume that wouldn't be in the story if it hadn't happened to the author in real life. Others have suggested that much of this story may be based on the author's own life. Will finish with this mournful tale tonight. Life goeth ever onward, as Wils will learn. And so ... to the end as Wils speaks to us from 40 years on. He goes to Famagusta to "connect" with the sad past and succeeds. A mournful ending that might draw a few tears if the reader is so inclined. - 4-25* rounds down to 4*. A most excellent book - very much male focused and rooted in the mid-fifties.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    I love the work of Ward Just. Every work I have read of his has been a gift, a wonderful surprise. An Unfinished Season is another example of his amazing skill and talents. It recounts the summer of 19 year old Wils, a North Shore Chigoan in the 1950s. Wils has a summer job working for a newspaper before going to the University of Chicago. He falls in love with Aurora Brule, a sophisticated and strong-willed young woman. In the background are the parents-Wils' father, fighting the union at his f I love the work of Ward Just. Every work I have read of his has been a gift, a wonderful surprise. An Unfinished Season is another example of his amazing skill and talents. It recounts the summer of 19 year old Wils, a North Shore Chigoan in the 1950s. Wils has a summer job working for a newspaper before going to the University of Chicago. He falls in love with Aurora Brule, a sophisticated and strong-willed young woman. In the background are the parents-Wils' father, fighting the union at his factory and Aurora's father, a successful psychiatrist who speaks little but whose presence powerfully shadows Wils and Aurore's relationship. The book is about the choices we make before we are experienced enough to understand what we're choosing and choices we make when we're overwhelmed by the experiences we have had. Just is a subtle and perceptive writer. Beyond that, his prose is exquisite. I don't understand why Just isn't more fussed about-he's about the most fabulous writer I've read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David

    A story of a young man coming of age, caught in between worlds, incapable of using quotation marks.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jak60

    There are a few things you can be sure to find in every book by Ward Just: an exquisite and subdued prose; the ability to give his characters a deep, complex inner life; superior skills in creating fascinating ambiences as a backdrop to his plots. Then, when - on top of all that - Just manages to hold his plot together, as it happens in the best of his books I read, Echo House and A Dangerous Friend, the result is outstanding. Other times instead, he loses it, the plot departs for tangents takin There are a few things you can be sure to find in every book by Ward Just: an exquisite and subdued prose; the ability to give his characters a deep, complex inner life; superior skills in creating fascinating ambiences as a backdrop to his plots. Then, when - on top of all that - Just manages to hold his plot together, as it happens in the best of his books I read, Echo House and A Dangerous Friend, the result is outstanding. Other times instead, he loses it, the plot departs for tangents taking it to very different places from where it started off and then it keeps rambling on. American Romantic was one of these cases and An Unfinished Season is another one. I am not sure I'd be able to play back what the whole story was about, it touched upon so many subjects, themes, situations, atmospheres; I think what I will retain as memory is just a vague but persistent feel of melancholy which permeates the entire novel.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    “An Unfinished Season” is the third of what Just calls his “Illinois cycle” of novels. Published in 2004, it was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize. Set in the Eisenhower/McCarthy Era years (Adlai Stevenson and Marlon Brando make cameo appearances), first-person narrator Wils lives with his mother and father in Quarterday, Ill., in the same direction from Chicago and the opulent North Shore suburbs as the real Half Day, Ill. Even though he is decidedly middle class, Wils has attended an exclu “An Unfinished Season” is the third of what Just calls his “Illinois cycle” of novels. Published in 2004, it was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize. Set in the Eisenhower/McCarthy Era years (Adlai Stevenson and Marlon Brando make cameo appearances), first-person narrator Wils lives with his mother and father in Quarterday, Ill., in the same direction from Chicago and the opulent North Shore suburbs as the real Half Day, Ill. Even though he is decidedly middle class, Wils has attended an exclusive North Shore prep school and spends his summers as the guest of various wealthy families hosting the traditional rounds of decadent summer parties. Wils lands a summer job after prep school graduation at a Chicago tabloid where he learns enough insider daily gossip to entertain others at the parties. As Wils tells the reader, “North Shore girls knew nothing of the ambiance of a big-city newspaper devoted to sexual mischief, crime, life’s terrors, a chronic melancholy among the city’s down-and-out.” But he could enlighten them. While making the party scene rounds, Wils meets Chicago-dweller Aurora, graduate of an exclusive Chicago school – probably Frances Parker, though Just does not name it. Wils' relationships with Aurora and her father, a divorced psychiatrist Aurora has chosen to live with over her mother, affect Wils as no other relationships have. He says he feels like the King of Chicago and finds himself addicted to her, making plans for the future despite her going to an East Coast university in the fall while Wills will enter the University of Chicago. As the first-person narrator, Wils lets the reader into his innermost thoughts and I often wondered to what degree these reflective sections are autobiographical to Just. For example: “…I was preoccupied with my own life, my summer job at one of the newspapers downtown, and my strenuous after-hours carousing. The summer had turned out better than I ever imagined, and I realized soon enough that I was inhabiting three parallel worlds: the newspaper, the parties, and the house in Quarterday.” The final chapter is a kind of Epilogue, catching up with Wils 41 years after the bulk of the novel takes place. In this chapter, one character says, “It’s a mistake to infer the author’s life from the author’s fiction.” Here, perhaps Just answers my question about the degree of autobiography present…or perhaps he just protests too much. For me, “An Unfinished Season” is a coming-of-age novel reminding me of Holden Caulfield and Jay Gatsby. I’m fascinated by Wils and his experiences in the city and suburbs in the decade and some before I moved to the Chicago area. There’s enough about journalists to keep me interested and not too much about politics to put me off. And there’s lots and lots about a young man sorting out his identity. The Pulitzer folks got it wrong in 2005. They selected Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead.” I would have chosen “An Unfinished Season” in a heartbeat.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Bazzett

    Ward Just's AN UNFINISHED SEASON is not at all what I'd expected. It was better. It is a coming-of-age kind of story, but several cuts above most books of that sort. Just brings a kind of sophistication and artistry seldom seen in books about growing up and falling in love. Granted there is the knowledge and heartbreak that often comes with hindsight in such matters, but (and I wish I had a little more sophistication in describing this beautiful book) Jeeze, this is one helluva story! Set in Chic Ward Just's AN UNFINISHED SEASON is not at all what I'd expected. It was better. It is a coming-of-age kind of story, but several cuts above most books of that sort. Just brings a kind of sophistication and artistry seldom seen in books about growing up and falling in love. Granted there is the knowledge and heartbreak that often comes with hindsight in such matters, but (and I wish I had a little more sophistication in describing this beautiful book) Jeeze, this is one helluva story! Set in Chicago and its northern suburbs in the early fifties, the McCarthy years, the Rosenbergs, Boss Daley, the heyday of great newspapers and reporting - all that stuff is in here, along with a fine and varied cast of complex and realistic characters, from its young hero, Wils Ravan, his parents, his bosses at the paper, his girlfriend, Aurora, and her sad and disturbed psychiatrist father (a survivor of the Bataan death march). And it all flows together so naturally. It keeps you pausing to consider a particularly good turn of phrase, but also keeps you turning the pages to learn what will happen next. Just's uncanny ability to recreate a sense of place and era brought to mind at least two other writers I have read with great enjoyment - one is the late Frederick Busch, who was, I believe, a close friend of Just's. The other is Larry Watson, closer to my own age, but whose skill in the aforementioned skills of place and time - as well as fascinating and fully realized characters - were so very evident in his first and most recent novels, MONTANA 1948 and AMERICAN BOY. But Ward Just is also totally unique in his style and subjects. I'm only two books into his works so far - so many more yet to read, I know. But I'm sure gonna try. This guy is GOOD! - Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mark Parrish

    It has been many years since I have read a novel of this greatness. Ward Just could be compared to some of the greatest...F.Scott Fitzgerald, D. H. Lawrence, Graham Green, just to name a few. Just is extraordinary at capturing a vocabulary that takes you into his story where you feel intimately involved with his characters. The Unfinished Season gives you a masterful look at what deb parties and the high society looks like in the early 1900's Chicago. The main character Wils is 19 years old, a s It has been many years since I have read a novel of this greatness. Ward Just could be compared to some of the greatest...F.Scott Fitzgerald, D. H. Lawrence, Graham Green, just to name a few. Just is extraordinary at capturing a vocabulary that takes you into his story where you feel intimately involved with his characters. The Unfinished Season gives you a masterful look at what deb parties and the high society looks like in the early 1900's Chicago. The main character Wils is 19 years old, a senior and a college bound kid. The story takes us into his life and the intimate details of what a 19 year old sees in his parents, relatives, neighbors, friends, society, government and the world, The read is mesmerized by his innocence and perceptions on his world. The book is rich with lines that describe how Wils life is shape by his parent yet you feel his pulling away and his need for independence like every newcomer to College. Just allows the reader to take a part in the richness and innocence of his newfound friend Aurora, who has a dream to live in Greenwich Village. Just seems to remind us of how precious our relationships are and how fleeding they can be. A true masterpiece of a novel!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    Let's see... nothing happens until around p. 116, and then nothing much happens after that, either. A coming-of-age story written as if Hemingway and Fitzgerald had a precocious yet clueless love child, this self-conscious dip into class, family and culture issues in 1950s Chicago and the North Shore is narrated by a strangely middle-aged nineteen year-old who speaks like no other nineteen year-old ever has or ever will. Much is supposed to be gleaned from very little plot, so the whole thing fe Let's see... nothing happens until around p. 116, and then nothing much happens after that, either. A coming-of-age story written as if Hemingway and Fitzgerald had a precocious yet clueless love child, this self-conscious dip into class, family and culture issues in 1950s Chicago and the North Shore is narrated by a strangely middle-aged nineteen year-old who speaks like no other nineteen year-old ever has or ever will. Much is supposed to be gleaned from very little plot, so the whole thing feels portentous without any actual portent. Unfortunate, really, because apart from the faux Nick Adams tone some of the writing is nice.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I would have to say this book was a 3 and one half stars for me. It was very well written. A story about a 19 year old growing up in Chicago in the 50's and his first love. My problem with it, however, was that it didn't answer some of the questions I had reading the character's stories. I guess I just wanted the book to reveal some of the secrets many of the characters seem to have in life. I would have to say this book was a 3 and one half stars for me. It was very well written. A story about a 19 year old growing up in Chicago in the 50's and his first love. My problem with it, however, was that it didn't answer some of the questions I had reading the character's stories. I guess I just wanted the book to reveal some of the secrets many of the characters seem to have in life.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kate Robinson

    If I could give this book two and an half stars I would, but giving it three stars is just too many. It was the epitome of 'okay.' Very atmospheric, but that was about all. The momentum it developed early on in the novel fizzled about a quarter of the way through. If I could give this book two and an half stars I would, but giving it three stars is just too many. It was the epitome of 'okay.' Very atmospheric, but that was about all. The momentum it developed early on in the novel fizzled about a quarter of the way through.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Nice writing in a rather stately coming-of-age story focused on a callow, wealthy Chicagoan in the early 1950s. I appreciated the depiction of class attitudes but found the whole novel a bit flat, almost as if it had been written in the 1950s rather than 2004.

  15. 5 out of 5

    K

    Eh. This book feels like a period piece that could have been written 80 years ago by Fitzgerald, except that it would have been 10 times better. This book looks at a world that is dead -- debutantes, young adults listening to jazz, accountability-free drunk driving, and a general innocence that is impossible in our hyper-wired age. The world just ain't this way any more, and that's one of the appeals of this book, in theory. But I couldn't help thinking over and over that I've read this type of Eh. This book feels like a period piece that could have been written 80 years ago by Fitzgerald, except that it would have been 10 times better. This book looks at a world that is dead -- debutantes, young adults listening to jazz, accountability-free drunk driving, and a general innocence that is impossible in our hyper-wired age. The world just ain't this way any more, and that's one of the appeals of this book, in theory. But I couldn't help thinking over and over that I've read this type of thing before, whether by Fitzgerald or E.M. Forster or one of the Brontes, but just so much better. The book actually has a fairly compelling plot line. Wilson Ravan is a shy young man born to wealth and privilege, and he lives outside of Chicago in the 1950s. He is finishing his senior year of high school when part of his world unravels, as his father's company is engaged in a bitter strike. At the same time, Wilson is creating his own independence from his parents -- the imposing father, former hockey star at Dartmouth, and the distant mother who is increasingly unhappy with her life in Chicago. Wilson has basically no friends, which he blames on a year-long illness when he was younger, which forced him to repeat a grade in school. His father blames it -- as fathers always do -- on shiftlessness of youth. The story follows Wilson as he deals with the trauma his father is facing, but at the same time leads two other lives. One is as a summer intern at a tabloid newspaper in downtown Chicago -- a rough-and-tumble city being chronicled by a blood-and-guys group of newspaper writers. The other life is going to black-tie parties several nights a week as parents try to pair off their eligible daughters. At those parties, Wilson finally gets some attention by sharing stories from the newsroom -- what was written, what wasn't, what it's like to go to a pool hall or to the morgue. Because the book is written about 40 years after the events that took place, the narrator has the sensibility to see what parts of himself were ridiculous at the time, and also how he was gaining maturity and facing crises. And there are crises -- his father the target of violence, his mother leaving home, his grandfather dying, a first serious girlfriend and all that entails. And at the same time, he learns how the world sees him -- what the hard-bitten, middle-class journalists think of the rich boy who's slumming for the summer, and what the pretty girls think of his gritty downtown tales. All in all, it's a formula for a good novel. But I found it to be kind of dull, I guess because it's mostly about a world of privilege that I'd never have access to, even to the extent that it still exists. And I wouldn't want access to it; I'd be intimidated like Wilson, but without the security he has of being born into it and therefore knowing he can stay as long as he doesn't break the rules too badly.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chaitra

    I felt a little cheated by this book. It started so well. The rich brat of a narrator's father faces union trouble in his publishing business in the height of the red scare, in the 50s. His fellow businessmen watch like hawks, since it might be them next. The narrator is 19, about to go to college, but he has landed an unlikely summer job at a newspaper, where he gets to work with blue collar men whose way of living he knows nothing of, reporting about Chicago's unending nightly bloodletting. Abo I felt a little cheated by this book. It started so well. The rich brat of a narrator's father faces union trouble in his publishing business in the height of the red scare, in the 50s. His fellow businessmen watch like hawks, since it might be them next. The narrator is 19, about to go to college, but he has landed an unlikely summer job at a newspaper, where he gets to work with blue collar men whose way of living he knows nothing of, reporting about Chicago's unending nightly bloodletting. About a quarter way through the book, the strike comes to nothing. The parents take a vacation in Havana, and the narrator introduces us to the person he says has changed his life. And given all the options above, I didn't figure it would be a garden variety manic pixie dream girl. That's exactly who it is, though. I would have understood if she turned him around from his privileged life and made him a labor leader or something. But, he goes on to do the very things he was supposed to have done in the first place, so I didn't even see how she changed his life. It was disappointing, because I really did like Just's style of writing, when he was writing about a seedier Chicago. I might have cared for the narrator and his nightly stream of parties if there was something more to it than that. The girl had an interesting background, and it somehow comes to naught. She turns him away for reasons I couldn't understand, as grandiose as it was made to sound on paper, to me it came across as overwrought. I would have said I don't know why it was nominated for the Pulitzer, but I feel the same about most of the Pulitzer nominees and winners I have read. So it's probably me.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    What is it with Ward Just? The blurbs could not be more complimentary. Blurbists found this book splendid, stunning, witty, sophisticated, elegant, beautifully languid, powerfully evocative, ravishingly atmospheric (the blurbists are always calling Just atmospheric). It was a Pulitzer finalist. For me, it was quite dull. Like the last Just I read, it feels very dated (the setting is Eisenhower era Chicago). Jazz is listened to and ice clinks in cocktails. None of the characters are remotely appe What is it with Ward Just? The blurbs could not be more complimentary. Blurbists found this book splendid, stunning, witty, sophisticated, elegant, beautifully languid, powerfully evocative, ravishingly atmospheric (the blurbists are always calling Just atmospheric). It was a Pulitzer finalist. For me, it was quite dull. Like the last Just I read, it feels very dated (the setting is Eisenhower era Chicago). Jazz is listened to and ice clinks in cocktails. None of the characters are remotely appealing. The 19 year old narrator thinks and speaks like an old man. Nothing interesting happens; even the book's climax, a suicide, could not arouse my interest. I did however learn that there used to be peat bogs in Skokie.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Manray9

    I am convinced Ward Just deserves greater recognition as a modern American writer of fiction, even though An Unfinished Season is not among his best works. The Washington Post said it was "leisurely in pace and meditative in tone," which is certainly the case. I found it engrossing, very well-written and full of skillfully-crafted characters. Not much happens in the novel, but that neither undermines the elegance of the prose nor the intensity of the emotions. It is solid Three Star material. I am convinced Ward Just deserves greater recognition as a modern American writer of fiction, even though An Unfinished Season is not among his best works. The Washington Post said it was "leisurely in pace and meditative in tone," which is certainly the case. I found it engrossing, very well-written and full of skillfully-crafted characters. Not much happens in the novel, but that neither undermines the elegance of the prose nor the intensity of the emotions. It is solid Three Star material.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. "I had an easier time with other people's stories than I did with my own. I had yet to find a narrative to my life, certainly no narrative that advanced in any coherent order or in which I played anything but a winning cameo role, kid brother or newsroom ranconteur. It did not seem to me that you could fashion a life until you could make the decisions that governed it. Until that time you lived quietly in your father's house." As I started reading this book, my first by Ward Just, I just kept say "I had an easier time with other people's stories than I did with my own. I had yet to find a narrative to my life, certainly no narrative that advanced in any coherent order or in which I played anything but a winning cameo role, kid brother or newsroom ranconteur. It did not seem to me that you could fashion a life until you could make the decisions that governed it. Until that time you lived quietly in your father's house." As I started reading this book, my first by Ward Just, I just kept saying to myself "this book is beautifully written....and I couldn't care less." Initially, reading this book was painful. A couple of pages a day here and there until one day I realized I was on page 50 and didn't want to set this book down. I can't say that there was a specific inciting incident that made the turn from boredom to interest. It crept up on me slowly. Much like when summer is coming to an end and you realize nightfall comes earlier each day. You don't notice it happening, you just acknowledge it as a fact. This is the coming of age story of Wils, set in the Eisenhower Midwest. We view his family, community, daily events and first love through his inexperienced eyes. You have preconceived ideas about your parents and their relationship, think that no one has had thoughts or feelings as original as yourself, and plan for the future as if you can see it clearly, plotted on a map. Little do you know at 19 what awaits you and how little control you seem to have at times. "naturalness was as elusive as smoke - so vivid one moment, vanished the next - and you remained in your own bed alone, waiting for something magical to happen, as surely as it would, tomorrow or the next day. The Midwest was so furtive, so enormous, the horizon line stretched to the limits of the known world. But there was no space to breathe." I have only two complaints that forced me to rate this book 3 stars. The first was as previously stated, the seemingly long build up to any sort of plot at the beginning. Secondly, I could have completely done without the ending. I would have been much more pleased if the storyline ended with Wils return to his home late at night after the death of his girlfriend's father. I absolutely did not care for the fast forward to Wils seeking out and visiting Consuela 40 years later. I didn't need to know what happened in the future to these characters, what the fight between Consuela and Aurora's father was about, etc. It added nothing for me and felt a little like the author was trying to give us insight and complexities to the characters that really was not needed. Having said all of the above, I am intrigued enough to look for and read another Ward Just book. After all, I love his phrasing and word choices- again beautifully written! "Everything came with a cost, and the cost was not always apparent. Win the girl, win the lottery, win the golf match, win the strike; and always there was something leftover, a residue you did not count on or even imagine. Winning was never the only thing; often, it wasn't anything."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Peacejanz

    Ward Just is a gentle writer - just tells his story and no flim-flam or phony leads. This is about a young man, just finishing high school and falling hard for an interesting young woman. Mother and Daddy are not getting on so well and Daddy's printing plant is victim to a current strike and neither wife or son understand the layers of meaning. As the summer goes by, the young man gets closer to his father while the mother is gone. And he falls in love, with an interesting young woman who lives Ward Just is a gentle writer - just tells his story and no flim-flam or phony leads. This is about a young man, just finishing high school and falling hard for an interesting young woman. Mother and Daddy are not getting on so well and Daddy's printing plant is victim to a current strike and neither wife or son understand the layers of meaning. As the summer goes by, the young man gets closer to his father while the mother is gone. And he falls in love, with an interesting young woman who lives with her father. The kid, who thinks he is becoming sophisticated and knowing, really misses most of life and ends the summer with haunting memories but is a lot wiser. The coda has the kid, now much older and seeking out one of the people from that summer, hoping for closure but ends up with … never mind, I will not spoil it for you. This author is a favorite of Barack Obama and when he buys a Ward Just book, I go read one, too. Just is a fine author but he is slow for me. I like a faster pace in my books.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nick Bouler

    I would call this, as a compliment, an old-fashioned novel. A man who is entering old age recalls a love affair that taught him how the world works. Ward Just is a favorite writer of mine and, like Julian Barnes, I trust him to tell me how the world works. Beautifully written, to my taste. Others have observed that some passages could be profitably edited, and I have no argument with that criticism. But I do think that we accept the manner in which authors write if the overall experience is enri I would call this, as a compliment, an old-fashioned novel. A man who is entering old age recalls a love affair that taught him how the world works. Ward Just is a favorite writer of mine and, like Julian Barnes, I trust him to tell me how the world works. Beautifully written, to my taste. Others have observed that some passages could be profitably edited, and I have no argument with that criticism. But I do think that we accept the manner in which authors write if the overall experience is enriching and, for me, that is certainly the case here.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    Having just finished reading two overly wordy, overly descriptive, somewhat self-important books, it is a pleasure to read a Ward Just book for the first time in a long time. His use of few words, but just the right ones to evoke a time, place and character is always a pleasure. He deserves to be better known.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    I really loved the writing and the characters in An Unfinished Season, but the plot moved so slowly. Have never read anything by this author before so maybe this is his style? Would have given it 5 stars otherwise. Also, Just does not use Quotation marks around dialogue and I found it confusing to determine what words were spoken or not.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Sattin

    Extraordinary writing. But if you’re looking for a plot-driven novel, this is not for you. The characters are complex and Ward Just’s insights are compelling. This is the kind of book that should be read twice. Highly recommended.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tana Kantor

    Very old school. Interesting because much of the political devides he talks about in the 40s are alive today. Well written. Characters come alive. A bit long in some places. Reminded me of books on Huey Long. Do think it's an important book that describes a 360 degree view of America. Very old school. Interesting because much of the political devides he talks about in the 40s are alive today. Well written. Characters come alive. A bit long in some places. Reminded me of books on Huey Long. Do think it's an important book that describes a 360 degree view of America.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Maybe it’s just me but I found the long, long passages of description boring and distracting. Great plot, wonderful characterization and evocation of a place and an era but the riffs - meant to echo jazz? - too long.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Steve Mayer

    A nineteen year old boy discovers love, sex, and death. Ho-hum.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jaime

    Very good. I would recommend this book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    liked the writing. didn't like the story. liked the writing. didn't like the story.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    Very well written. Themes that can relate to modern day.

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