The book contains thousands of memorable one-liners about politics, morality, culture, and transatlantic relations: "The American mind exasperated the European as a buzz-saw might exasperate a pine forest." There are astonishing glimpses of the high and mighty: "He saw a long, awkward figure; a plain, ploughed face; a mind, absent in part, and in part evidently worried by white kid gloves; features that expressed neither self-satisfaction nor any other familiar Americanism...." (That would be Abraham Lincoln; the "melancholy function" his Inaugural Ball.) But most of all, Adams' book is a brilliant account of how his own sensibility came to be. A literary landmark from the moment it first appeared, the autobiography confers upon its author precisely that prize he felt had always eluded him: success.
This Pulitzer Prize-winner is considered by many to be one of the three greatest autoboigraphies ever written (the other two being Benjaman Franklin's and Jean-Jacques Rosseau's). Published shortly after the author's death in 1918, The Education of Henry Adams is a brilliant, idiosyncratic blend of autobiography and history that charts the great transformation in American life during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
© and (P)1992 Jimcin; Cover design ©2004 Brian J. Killavey
I would have given five stars, but an abrdiged version would be worthwhile and the narrator's over emphasised Bostonian accent is annoying at times. Also the author's style of describing himself in the third person is annoying, but I seemed to get used to by about a third of the way through. That said: Absolutely mind bending in breadth and insight. An absolutely defining work of non fiction literature for the last 300 years. It is leading me on to so many areas. If you like science and you find the early chapters boring, cut to the third part of the book. His take on the effect of the scientific revolution of the 1800s and it's impact on human civilisation and the planet is without parallel. If you are fascinated by the American Civil War and Europe's part in it, stay with the beginning in to the middle. If you like to see politicians made fun of as they should be, just stay with the whole thing. If you find yourself in a people group he makes fun of or insults, don't stop reading. He covers everyone eventually, especially himself. A masterpiece of humanity.
I did not know what to expect from this classic book. But I certainly did not expect 20 hours of... nothing. His life was probably interesting, but reading about it is not. I predict that in one week I will not remember a single thing from this book.
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