The Caine Mutiny: A Novel

by Herman Wouk

Hardcover, 1951

Collection

Description

Misery begins when a paranoid commander, Captain Queeg takes charge. In a matter of days he has alienated everybody -- & all on board believe Queeg to be insane. In a tense situation during a critical period of the war, Queeg loses all self-control. In the better interest of the ship & the nation, the second-in-command, Lieutenant Maryk usurps authority....

User reviews

LibraryThing member santhony
Many years ago, I read Winds of War and War and Remembrance. For whatever reason, I neglected to read Wouk's earlier works, including the widely acclaimed Caine Mutiny. Recently, I had the occasion to read Youngblood Hawke, and as a result made a concerted effort to explore other Wouk novels.

Of course, I was familiar with The Caine Mutiny as a result of having seen the film classic starring Humphrey Bogart as the infamous Captain Queeg. I have to admit that previously seeing the movie detracted somewhat from the reading experience. Though the book was every bit as good as the movie (better in fact), knowing many of the details in advance spoiled much of the suspense that might have existed otherwise. Despite physical descriptions, I automatically pictured Bogart fondling the ball bearings or Fred McMurray as the pompous, holier than thou Keefer.

Having said that, even having seen the movie, reading this work was utterly captivating. Rarely have I read a book that better shines light on the human psyche and human nature in the face of sometimes overwhelming pressure and stress. There are so many fascinating characters in this book, from the obvious (Queeg and Willie) to the seemingly peripheral but nevertheless vital (Keefer, Maryk).

The story thread involving Mae, I thought was really unnecessary and perhaps filler, though it allowed the author to more fully explore the character of Willie. The complaints of naval jargon are valid, though in truth, knowledge of technical naval maneuvers or terminology is by no means necessary for enjoyment of the work. Understanding of the issues involved is easily discerned by context and is usually not central to the task of following the story.

If you've never read this novel, you owe it to yourself to invest the time. If you have not seen the movie, I particularly recommend the book. Unquestionably, one of the finest war novels ever written. Having recently read Youngblood Hawke and now The Caine Mutiny, I can only say, it's on to Marjorie Morningstar.
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LibraryThing member hemlokgang
I absolutely loved this novel. Set during WWII, on a minesweeper in the Pacific Ocean, this is a coming of age tale, a tale of perspective, of crazy behavior in extreme circumstances, and a story of love and loyalty. The characters are quite memorable. No wonder this is an award winning story!
LibraryThing member agnesmack
I'm not sure how much my opinion of this book benefited from having read a slew of WWII novels ahead of it. I still have an unfortunate number of WWII novels to get through before the year is over, but this is easily the best of the ones I've read so far. I don't know if that's because it was actually good, or if just being readable was such a leg up from the others that I am judging it favorably.

The main difference between this and the other WWII novels I've read was that they were all about WWII, or the military, while this one was actually about a person - who happened to be serving in the military.

The war and the NAVY were definitely very present, and the entire plot was centered around this boy, Willie, learning the ropes. But everything was secondary to him, as a person.

It was also the only of the WWII novels that assumed I knew nothing about military rank and regulations. The book started well before Willie joined the NAVY, and their jargon and procedures were as foreign to him as they were to me. Everything was presented through the eyes of someone trying to figure things out, and together we did just that. Compared to constantly having to look up military abbreviations and googling ranks to figure out how important a General is, as I've been forced to do with other similar novels, The Caine Mutiny was a joy to read.
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LibraryThing member GeoKaras
One of the truely great war novels of all time. An insightful and moving account of men, war, the sea and a court martial.
LibraryThing member Catiecool
This book is so good. The characters are fascinating. Especially Keefer and Queeg. They are all so ambiguous in terms of moral standing and motives. Even Willie Keith shares their ambiguity. Maryk is a good noble character and so is Greenwald.This is a good satiric story, coming-of-age story, and war story all rolled into one. The novel also discusses the pressures of leadership in situations and what characteristics good leaders possess.… (more)
LibraryThing member pfax
Riveting read. I read this in a span of 10 days, which, for me, is a very fast pace. The romance was very convincing and mutiny trial took some great twists and turns.
LibraryThing member aarrott
Wouk joined the United States Navy and served in the Pacific Theater, an experience he later characterized as educational; "I learned about machinery, I learned how men behaved under pressure, and I learned about Americans." During World War II, Herman Wouk served as an officer aboard two destroyer minesweepers. Wouk's novel, "The Caine Mutiny", is a masterful product of this experience.… (more)
LibraryThing member jayne_charles
I was in the school library at the age of 14 and about to borrow an Enid Blyton (at the age of 14! The shame of it!!) when my English teacher Mrs Straughan saw me, tut-tutted loudly and gave me this book instead. I was horrified. Some piece of historical fiction about some Americans in the Navy in World War II. So far out of my comfort zone it might as well have been on Mars. 'You'll really enjoy it', Mrs Straughan assured me. And she was right. Not only did I enjoy it the first time, I enjoyed it the twenty or so other times I read it since. Funny, informative, exciting, perceptive. This story has a special place on my bookshelf.… (more)
LibraryThing member Smiley
The slow motion mutiny during wartime. The tension on board the Caine builds drip by drip. The parallel love story is a perfect counterpoint to the mutiny. There is even a suprise ending. Drop into another world for a while. Addictive reading.
LibraryThing member ocgreg34
Ensign Willie Keith's stint in the Navy began on a bad note: he missed boarding his assigned ship, the U.S.S. Caine, in Pearl Harbor before it left for Australia. He worked in rotation as a member of the officers' pool until the Caine returned a few months later to claim their long lost crewman. It took some time for Keith to settle into his new routine, but he found the crew affable and Captain De Vriess a hard but fair man.

Just as Keith was getting accustomed to the Captain's ways, the Navy assigned a new captain to the Caine -- Lieutenant Commander Philip F. Queeg. Almost immediately, Queeg wormed his way onto the crews' bad side by strictly enforcing Navy regulations, doling out harsh punishments for the smallest of violations, and finding ways to blame others for his mistakes. Or so it seemed to Lieutenant Tom Keefer, who insinuated the idea that Queeg wasn't quite right in the head based upon Section 184. Keith brushed it off, but Lieutenant Steve Maryk paid closer attention to Queeg, keeping a detailed journal of events and how Queeg handled both them and himself. At a rendez-vous with Admiral Halsey's flagship, Maryk was ready to present his information, but Keefer convinced him not to. Later, during a terrific storm at sea, Maryk decided that Queeg's handling of the ship put the crew at risk and relieved him of duty, and all the while Queeg protested against the mutiny of his crew.

"The Caine Mutiny" blends different genres into a single compelling tale. At first, we have the Willie Keith's story aboard the U.S.S. Caine -- a new soldier learning the good and bad about war, both at see and with his personal life. On the other hand, we have a subtle psychological game, following Queeg's actions with a measured eye to catch any instances of him slipping over the edge. And finally, we witness a nail-biting courtroom drama during Maryk's court-martial, with hardcore cross-examinations that left me wide-eyed in amazement. Throw in some great action sequences that had me breathlessly turning the page and well-written characters that feel like real people instead of fictional characters, and Herman Wouk's novel truly is an intense and amazing book to read.
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LibraryThing member auntieknickers
It's a very, very long time since I read this book -- possibly 50 years -- so it's not surprising that all I remember is the affair of the missing strawberries. It's quite amazing to me that Wouk has recently published another book. Possibly I should re-read this one, but perhaps first I'll watch the movie, which was also well-regarded, I think.… (more)
LibraryThing member cljacobson
Modern-day mutiny aboard a Naval vessel . Nervous and inept behavior of Captain Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) during maneuvers aboard the U.S.S. Caine--a destroyer/mine sweeper--attracts the attention of the ship's crew members and its executive officer Maryk(Van Johnson). Also starring Jose'Ferrer, Fred MacMurray. 125 min
LibraryThing member ecw0647
I reread this classic novel for our reading club. I had first read it many years ago in high school while reading through the complete and unabridged (some twelve or fourteen volumes -- I can't remember exactly) [book:History of US Naval Operations in World War II] by Samual Eliot Morison -- a spectacular read I would recommend to anyone. If you have only seen the movie, you must read the book, if for no other reason than to restore Wouk's reputation in your mind. My perspective reading it as an older adult — I still hesitate to use that word— was also very different from my recollection of the first reading when I just enjoyed it immensely as a roaringly good nautical story. What happens (for those who have never had the pleasure of reading this gripping story) is not just the story of a junior officer relieving his captain -- indeed, Maryk, the exec who relives Captain Queeg during the typhoon is never even charged during the court martial with mutiny, a capital crime, but rather with the equally serious and severely punishable conduct to the detriment of good order and discipline. During a severe typhoon the Caine finds itself in serious danger of foundering as Queeg, attempting the following the orders of the fleet commander tries to continue on a southerly course rather than into the wind. He seems paralyzed with fear and unable to react to the suggestion of Maryk, a reserve officer, but who has substantial sea experience in fishing vessels. The events are seen primarily through the eyes of Willie Keith, a spoiled, rich kid from New York, infatuated with a nightclub singer, who gradually comes of age during the war, finally ending it as the last captain of the Caine. The most interesting character is Greenlaw, the Jewish lawyer and injured fighter pilot, who is drafted into defending Maryk. Through several rather brilliant legal interrogations and manuevers, he gets Maryk acquitted, but he knows it's just a matter of time before the review board overturns the verdict, because even he recognizes that Maryk's actions were wrong and that Queeg was, in many ways, a tragically flawed but heroic figure. The villain is the intellectual novelist Lieutenant Keefer who eggs on Maryk to look for signs of insanity in Queeg's actions, but who later, when in command himself, earns a couple of steel balls placed on his pillow by his then exec Willie Keith and who fails to support Maryk during the court martial. The trial, I think, has some of the best legal writing anywhere, capturing the intense drama in a few short pages.… (more)
LibraryThing member momma2
This book was on a must read list so I picked it up. It was an easy enough read but nothing terribly deep or thought provoking.
LibraryThing member AuntieClio
This was intense, and really entertaining. I have quibbles with the love story and am not quite sure how that was supposed to fit in with the story of a rust bucket minesweeper, its crew and the eventual decision to relieve Captain Queeg from duty by his Executive Office.

The story follows Willie Keith from training to eventual posting on the Caine, a minesweeping ship which should have been retired long before World War II began. As an eager young Princeton graduate with a degree in Literature and very gung ho ensign, Keith views the grungy crew and ship with disdain, as he does Captain De Vriess.

Ensign Keith only things he has it bad until Captain Queeg comes on board. Queeg is an emotional bully; paranoid, uneven, illogical and often downright incomprehensible. Things come to a head after months of Queeg's shenanigans, in which has proved himself inept and incapable of managing the Caine and her crew. In the middle of a typhoon, which has caught the ship in its record winds, Queeg's XO Maryk relieves the captain of duty and keeps the ship upright and gets her out of the worst of the storm.

Maryk has kept a log of all the incidents caused by Queeg's irrational behavior, and has been talked into seeing him as crazy by another college graduate and published author, Tom Harding who has read books about psychology. But when the going gets tough, Harding steps back from his conviction that Queeg is/was crazy and should have been relieved of duty. It is Willie Keith who steps up and backs Maryk's decision to mutiny against their captain.

I think this book holds up well and many of the characters and situations are believable. As I said at the beginning, I mostly had trouble figuring out how the love story was supposed to fit into all this.
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LibraryThing member dbsovereign
Mutiny as a release mechanism for onboard tension. Duty as duty compromised. Difficult decisions in difficult circumstances. A compelling read.
LibraryThing member pratalife
I have vague recollections of really enjoying Bogart's portrayal of Lieutenant Commander Phillip Queeg, and so was looking forward to reading the book by Herman Wouk that it was based upon.

But I must admit I was pretty disappointed.

I was left with a distinct feeling that the mythology surrounding the book must account for more than a good part of it's almost universal acclaim. And I am flabbergasted that it won a Pulitzer Prize.

The primary sin of the book is that I very quickly found my suspension of disbelief wallowing in shallow waters. Unlike the film, which portrays a captain who clearly has had some nuts seriously come loose, the book paints a picture with repeated anecdotes and courtroom psychology of a person who is almost farcically out of their depth from the earliest point in their career. Every misstep recounted in the book is another nail in the coffin of the story's credibility.

I ended up totally disbelieving the possibility that Queeg would have ever been given command of a ship, even in wartime. After all, the Peter Principle dictates that we all eventually get promoted to a position at which we are no longer competent. Not six levels above it.

Then we have the dual plot lines involving Ensign Keith: his shipboard experiences and involvement in the "mutiny"; and his personal life journey that involves a woman (of course) and the missive from his dying father to be a man and make the most of his life. That's a good setup, but Wouk leaves the plot lines flapping in the wind. Nothing that Keith learns in his private life seems to affect his ship-board experiences one bit, and vice versa. So what was the point?!!! It's almost as if Woek started with the idea of Keith's wake up call from his father actively guiding his course through the mutiny, but then either forgot or couldn't be bothered to weave it all together, and also couldn't be bothered to rewrite out the redundant plot lines.

I must say I was quite cynical when I arrived at the court-room drama. Here we have supposed hotshot lawyer Lieutenant Barney Greenwald who nevertheless allows the case to get mired in the question of whether the sailors can make a clinically-sound diagnosis in the middle of a typhoon.
That's Grisham 101 people!

And so by the time we reach the moral showdown of the story, I was not unprepared to be disappointed by the wild leap of logic that it is in fact a travesty that Queeg's competence and position should ever have been questioned!! Because of course he was serving in the Navy from before the war and therefore did more than anyone to fight Hitler. And since Hitler did such bad things to so many people, especially Jews, then so Queeg should be given all the respect due as if he had personally stayed Hitler's hand himself. So we are to believe that Queeg gets a permanent pass for all future misdeeds by dint of simple association? I think not!

Was I just in a bad mood, or is this one of the most laziest outings for an author I have read in quite some time?
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LibraryThing member AdonisGuilfoyle
Well, here's a turn up for the (e)books - a long, 'masculine' narrative set during World War Two that is part Master and Commander, part Perry Mason ... and I loved the story! I had to keep stopping to charge my Kindle, but I devoted two whole(ish) days to this novel, and - apart from the last couple of chapters - I'm not sorry.

The 'cover' of my Kindle version features Humphrey Bogart in the role of Captain Queeg, but I haven't seen the film, and now I don't really want to. Bogart isn't my idea of Queeg at all. All of Wouk's characters are believable, if not always likable, the 'action' is cleverly paced (delaying the consequences of the mutiny to pad out the trial), and the 'mutiny' is very carefully balanced to throw doubt on all those involved. The reader of course sides with Meryk and Keith, because we are 'there' with them, but the outcome of the court martial is debatable even after the verdict. And I would love to read Queeg's version of events!

About the only part of the story that doesn't work is the end - Wouk, like Queeg, should have stopped talking a whole lot sooner. Keith's hot and cold pursuit of the sparky May does not cast him in the best light - I know what my response to that letter would have been! - and Greenwald's rambling defence of the Navy is laboured to say the least. I ploughed on, but honestly, I think Dmytryk had the right idea in ending the film with the trial.

An enduring tale - entertaining, powerful and carefully crafted. Just a tad overlong!
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LibraryThing member pratalife
I have vague recollections of really enjoying Bogart's portrayal of Lieutenant Commander Phillip Queeg, and so was looking forward to reading the book by Herman Wouk that it was based upon.

But I must admit I was pretty disappointed.

I was left with a distinct feeling that the mythology surrounding the book must account for more than a good part of it's almost universal acclaim. And I am flabbergasted that it won a Pulitzer Prize.

The primary sin of the book is that I very quickly found my suspension of disbelief wallowing in shallow waters. Unlike the film, which portrays a captain who clearly has had some nuts seriously come loose, the book paints a picture with repeated anecdotes and courtroom psychology of a person who is almost farcically out of their depth from the earliest point in their career. Every misstep recounted in the book is another nail in the coffin of the story's credibility.

I ended up totally disbelieving the possibility that Queeg would have ever been given command of a ship, even in wartime. After all, the Peter Principle dictates that we all eventually get promoted to a position at which we are no longer competent. Not six levels above it.

Then we have the dual plot lines involving Ensign Keith: his shipboard experiences and involvement in the "mutiny"; and his personal life journey that involves a woman (of course) and the missive from his dying father to be a man and make the most of his life. That's a good setup, but Wouk leaves the plot lines flapping in the wind. Nothing that Keith learns in his private life seems to affect his ship-board experiences one bit, and vice versa. So what was the point?!!! It's almost as if Woek started with the idea of Keith's wake up call from his father actively guiding his course through the mutiny, but then either forgot or couldn't be bothered to weave it all together, and also couldn't be bothered to rewrite out the redundant plot lines.

I must say I was quite cynical when I arrived at the court-room drama. Here we have supposed hotshot lawyer Lieutenant Barney Greenwald who nevertheless allows the case to get mired in the question of whether the sailors can make a clinically-sound diagnosis in the middle of a typhoon.
That's Grisham 101 people!

And so by the time we reach the moral showdown of the story, I was not unprepared to be disappointed by the wild leap of logic that it is in fact a travesty that Queeg's competence and position should ever have been questioned!! Because of course he was serving in the Navy from before the war and therefore did more than anyone to fight Hitler. And since Hitler did such bad things to so many people, especially Jews, then so Queeg should be given all the respect due as if he had personally stayed Hitler's hand himself. So we are to believe that Queeg gets a permanent pass for all future misdeeds by dint of simple association? I think not!

Was I just in a bad mood, or is this one of the most laziest outings for an author I have read in quite some time?
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LibraryThing member addunn3
Interesting study of the making of a modern day (1940s) mutiny.
LibraryThing member leslie.98
Another book that I first encountered as a movie. Because of that, I was surprised by the first section of the novel about Willie Keith before he joined The Caine. And the book continues on long past the movie too!

Keith's relationship with May Wynn has a lot more depth in the book, though I came close to despising Willie for his superior attitude towards her. In fact, all the characters had more nuances to them except for Steve Maryk.… (more)
LibraryThing member slsmith101
I read several of Herman Wouk's early novels many years ago when I was in high school. Most of his novels are somewhat long. He likes to fully develop his characters which is one reason I enjoyed his books. My favorite was The Caine Mutiny. Reading it again now was very interesting. I found myself imagining what it had been like to read it the first time. This time I found it difficult to get into at first since I am now used to books that get to the meat of the story right away. By the end I realized that through the many stories about life onboard the Caine, I had watched the main character, Willie Keith, mature from a boy to a man. The chapters describing the mutiny and the subsequent court marshal are some of the most gripping I have ever read and were the main reason I decided to reread the book.… (more)
LibraryThing member Stbalbach
This is really an amazing book. It is much better than the movie (which everyone has seen and is excellent) however two things from the movie spoiled it for me: Bogarts depiction of Queeg, and the dramatic trial scene when Queeg cracks - in both cases the movie is better - but minor gripes. The book is wonderful on many levels. The whole love affair is a novel within a novel. Lots of literary themes going on. Symbolically the "greatest generation" (characterized by its need for rules and structure) is growing up, taking over from the "lost generation" (depicted in the the first captain, characterized by tough pragmatism and doing whatever it takes to get the job done). This is a cautionary tale for an entire new generation who came of age in WWII - both the good side (heroism) and the bad side (fascism) - Caine and Able. Wouk really taped into the zeitgeist of 1950s America post-WWII. It is also historically fascinating as one of the most accurate depictions of life on board a US Navy vessel in WWII. Deserves to be in the canon of 20th lit - but since it was so popular (NYT best-seller list for almost 3 years) it may take a while to be "respectable".… (more)
LibraryThing member br77rino
WWII sailors on a rusting, filthy bucket of a destroyer/minesweeper, first under a captain who is smart but sloppy, but then under a captain who is organized but stupid. Great character development. A top-notch 1950's novel.

Genres

Publication

Doubleday Books (1951), 498 pages

Language

Original language

English

Original publication date

1951-10

Physical description

498 p.
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