Vintage Hardcover The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw, 1948
The Young Lions is a vivid and classic novel that portrays the experiences of ordinary soldiers fighting World War II. Told from the points of view of a perceptive young Nazi, a jaded American film producer, and a shy Jewish boy just married to the love of his life, Shaw conveys, as no other novelist has since, the scope, confusion, and complexity of war.
The novel was adapted as a film of the same name in 1958 starring Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Dean Martin.
Jonathan Yardley, writing in 2009 in The Washington Post, identified The Young Lions as one of the four epic American war novels that emerged in the immediate post-war era. The other three were The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer (1948), The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk (1951) and From Here to Eternity by James Jones (1951). He wrote, "Today, at a remove of well over half a century, it is difficult to conjure the incredible excitement these books created, not merely the sense that the terrible war had inspired fiction of lasting importance but also the belief that the 'Great American Novel' at last was within reach". Yardley wrote that some of Shaw's short stories are minor classics and that portions of The Young Lions approached this level but as a whole, "it is too prolix and flabby to fulfill the high ambitions Shaw obviously had for it". Yardley believes that, like the other three novels mentioned above, Shaw's novel has more value as a document of war than as a literary accomplishment.