The Young Lions Superb Novel of the Hell Inside Soldiers

The Young Lions is a superbly plotted novel about three solders in World War II. Christian Diestl is a cultured German; Noah Ackerman is an American Jew; Michael Whitacre is a clumsy ,idealistic, American playwright.

Irwin Shaw introduces each in his own chapter, then continues to cycle through their stories as each man is drawn into the war. As all three wind up in France after D-Day, their stories converge.

The war is awful for soldiers on both sides. Bad food and sore feet are every soldier’s lot. Opportunists on both sides make money from other men’s misery. Both sides have equally incompetent officers.

This is not so much a “war is hell” story as a story about the hell men carry with them to war. War defines and intensifies each one’s essential nature.

There are no stereotypes, no heroes or villains from central casting. Shaw, a playwright himself, shows each man through his words and actions. The men are so distinctive, you feel almost as if you actually knew them.

Although The Young Lions is easily twice typical novel length, the story is so engrossing it doesn’t seem a paragraph too long.

This is superb reading. Don’t miss it.

The Young Lions
By Irwin Shaw
Random House, 1948
689 pages
Bestseller # 10 for 1948
My Grade: A-
© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda Aragoni

I read. I write. I think. I make big ideas simple. I help teachers teach expository writing to teens and adults. In my free time, I read and review old novels.

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