Review

An Unfinshed Season

by Ward Just



Reading novelist Ward Just is a journey to a different era in
American literature. His work fits comfortably in the period of
Hemingway, Faulkner and Fitzgerald. Indeed, readers of Just's most
recent novel, AN UNFINISHED SEASON, may be struck by its distinct
similarity in theme and tone to Fitzgerald's THE GREAT GATSBY. Both
novels view the clash between American cultures and class as
observed by a young, innocent narrator learning difficult life
lessons.

The Nick Carraway of AN UNFINISHED SEASON is Wilson Ravan, a
nineteen-year-old resident of Quarterday, Illinois, an affluent
North Shore suburb of Chicago. "The winter of the year my father
carried a gun for his own protection was the coldest on record in
Chicago" begins the novel. The winter in question is the early
1950s when Midwestern America and the nation are suffering the
trauma of post-World War II metamorphosis brought about by
anticommunist fervor, worker unrest and reexamination of the role
of the United States in a changing world. In the brief time frame
of the novel, young Ravan will graduate from high school, prepare
to enter the University of Chicago, spend his summer on the North
Shore social circuit, and work as a copy boy at a tabloid Chicago
newspaper. Along the way, the struggles of his father and mother to
confront both business and personal dilemmas will awaken Wilson to
the complexity and injustice of life. Just like Nick Carraway, he
will see the destruction caused by shallow and callused
people.

Young Ravan meets Aurora Brule at one of the numerous debutant
dances of the summer. The young couple fall in love. Aurora's
father, Jack Brule, is a society psychiatrist, a man of complexity
and mystery. Dr. Brule is a man burdened by tragic memories of
World War II. Through this character, Ward Just, a veteran of the
Vietnam conflict, is able to share with the reader his views on the
experience and horrors of war. Like Ernest Hemingway, Just has led
a rich and adventurous life. Those experiences form a foundation
for his writing. Be it combat, politics, journalism or any number
of issues, Just is not afraid to share with the reader his life
experiences through the characters of his novel.

Ward Just grew up in Waukegan, Illinois, a middle-class community
north of Chicago lacking the social status of the mythical
Quarterday community chronicled in AN UNFINISHED SEASON. His family
owned a small paper, the Waukegan News-Sun, where Just spent his
early years as a journalist. While this novel is not a biographical
work, it is nonetheless written from the perspective of a man who
has experienced the evils of yellow journalism. Just knows his
profession and he also knows well the politics and psyche of the
Midwest. Whether it is the working class laborers of Ted Ravan's
factory, or the upper class debutantes of Lake Forest and Winnetka,
the characters in this novel have been superbly created by a writer
of brilliance and insight.

Ward Just may be one of America's best-kept secrets. This is his
14th novel, and although several of his previous efforts have
earned accolades and writing awards, he may still be an unknown
talent to many readers. AN UNFINISHED SEASON is a coming-of-age
story reminiscent of not only THE GREAT GATSBY, but also of J.D.
Sallinger's CATCHER IN THE RYE. For those familiar with Ward Just's
work, AN UNFINISHED SEASON is an anticipated summer treat. For
first-time visitors to this novelist, be glad that you have
thirteen other novels to read while you wait for his next
effort.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 24, 2011

An Unfinshed Season
by Ward Just

  • Publication Date: July 8, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 251 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN-10: 0618036695
  • ISBN-13: 9780618036691