Again, the reviews were great, almost all 288 of them. I am getting rather suspect of these reviews, but what else do I have to go on? Had I been aware of the episodes of vulgar language and speech, I would have not bought this book, but, having just finished reading this very long novel, I realize that without the graphic episodes, the impact of the story would be all but lost.
The setting is a military college in the deep south, where tradition and connections are very deep seated and all important. The time is during the Viet Nam war, mid sixties, and during the time of racial integration. These themes play out as new recruits to the college are 'hazed' in what is known as 'the process', an ordeal for the best of them, which will break them, and then rebuild them into complete men.
Our hero, Will McLean, finds something innately wrong with 'the process' and his sense of justice and fairness only strengthened as he finds that he is becoming one of the people he has learned to loathe.
Add to this a mysterious friendship with a disgraced young lady, connections to a very wealthy 'old money' family, a very interesting friendship with his history professor, and plenty of conflict with fellow cadets as a huge mystery unfolds, a mystery that has gone from rumor and innuendo to fact.
The author is eloquent, poetic, and is a truly gifted writer, especially when he is writing about the bond of friendship between four room mates and the development of these characters.
Underlying a really great story, is the transformation of a boy into a man, not the man the institute is trying to create, but a man who is true to himself and all that he values.
The language is graphic and not for the faint of heart. It is spoken by the characters, in dialogue with each other. Other than that, the writing is on a very high level, insightful, eloquent, literate, and mostly beautiful, delving into issues of racism, brutality, friendship, betrayal, social class, honour, courage, and standing up for what is right.