Some seventeen million Americans served in the military during World War II. Their return to civilian life -- and to a vastly changed country -- provided novelists (many of whom were veterans themselves) an opportunity to explore a wide range of social and personal issues. An example, much different from the similarly themed King of This Hill, is What Way My Journey Lies. The author, Frank Fenton (1903-71), was a longtime screenwriter who sprouted a middle initial sometime after the book was published. He is often confused with the character actor of the same name. [Jacket image courtesy of ReadInk, Los Angeles, California.]
What Way My Journey Lies by Frank E. Fenton. Duell, Sloan and Pearce (1946), 243 pp.
John Norman, a veteran unsure of his future, arrives in Los Angeles during the last months of World War II. He moves into the beach cottage of a fallen comrade and soon becomes involfed with his worldly girlfriend. He can't forget his experiences in combat and can't focus on long range plans. Norman eventually comes to see his affair and his life on the beach as diversions. He then moves to a rooming house downtown. There he meets several people with thoughtful views of the postwar world and takes up with a strait-laced teacher.
The book’s compelling portrayal of its protagonist cannot quite overcome its formless plot. The reader sympathizes with the veteran’s inability to forget the horrors of combat and focus his attention on finding a place in postwar America. But his inner conflicts are not sharply reflected in the events of the story. The women seem stereotypical. The second one is so loyal, unimaginative, and self-sacrificing that his prospects with her seem dubious. Whether the author wants the reader to reach this conclusion is unclear. Still, the story, told with a fluid and graceful writing style, makes for an interesting read.