Ken Tucker
July 16, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

An Unfinished Season

Current Status
In Season
Ward Just

We gave it an A

Ward Just continues to expand his storytelling beyond his celebrated Washington, D.C., political novels with this beautifully languid, emotionally intense tale of Wils Ravan, a 19-year-old growing up fast in 1950s Illinois. Ravan’s father owns a printing business; a middle-class striver, his rise is hobbled by his employees’ decision to strike. Wils rebels quietly, attending the University of Chicago (”the hotbed of American socialism,” says Dad) and working as a newspaper copyboy. He also falls in love with Aurora, a girl whose sexiness is her piercing wit and soignee reserve. Her father is a famous Freudian psychologist, the sort of worldly fellow esteemed by colleagues as well as Marlon Brando. As usual with Just, political events (Joe McCarthy’s witch hunts and the Korean War) shape human ones. But it is the intricate contrasts between the fathers and their children, young adults who exult and err in love, that give Season a melancholy lushness tempered by a fierce, unforgiving realism.

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