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5.0 out of 5 starsThis is a great book, worth reading
Reviewed in the United States on September 25, 2015
I was inspired to read this after watching the Orson Welles film adaptation. This is a great book, worth reading. In my mind. I had always connected Booth Tarkington with books for turn of the century boys, sort of early 20th century versions of Aesop's fables with morals strewn throughout. You might say the same of this, in that the main character got his comeuppance for his past egregious behavior, but the book is so much more than that. Characters are beautifully drawn, and the description of the changes wrought in a Midwestern city over a fifty year period is a snapshot of America during that time. I read it in a couple of days, and was unable to put it down.
5.0 out of 5 starsA Wonderful Read; It Feels Like You are There...
Reviewed in the United States on June 23, 2018
I have loved the 'Alice Adams' book for many years, and just found out that this one is just as good with a few similarities. I had tried to watch the Orson Welles film version on cable a few times, but gave up out of boredom every single time. As with 'Alice,' I am sure the book is better, by far. One can assume that young people 100 years ago were very different; they would not be completely correct in that assumption. Now I will look for more books of this era to devour.
5.0 out of 5 starsThe Ambersons are caught in a world of changes
Reviewed in the United States on March 30, 2019
This is the 2nd time that I have read this book. The Magnificent Ambersons was given the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1917. Booth Tarkington would receive another Pulitzer a few years later for Alice Adams. This book does a great job relating the changes that a town in Indiana undergoes in the 1890s through the early part of the 20th century. Tarkington uses the automobile as one of the change agents. Somehow the Ambersons are not willing to accept the changes. Highly recommended.
It seems odd that this is a largely forgotten or ignored book, especially because many American novels maintain some greater popularity and are frequently taught, not because they are especially great books, but because they offer a revealing portrait of their time. In the case of The Magnificent Ambersons, it is hard to think of many American novels that create a more fascinating portrait of their time (in this case, America around the turn of the century) and are equally well written. The book primarily traces the fortunes of the Amberson family as Midwestern America transitions from a rural, small-town society with certain seemingly permanent social distinctions based on land, tradition and "cultivation" (a society based on who you are, i.e., "being"), to an urban society based on money and industry, where the social "ground" is subject to swift, seismic shifts (a society based on "doing"). The Ambersons are the embodiment of the "old" American aristocracy and, at least at the outset, their world and their position in it both seem solid, secure and permanent. The book does a marvelous job of depicting this older society, both in its heyday and as it rapidly disappears, including its elegance, its foibles and its arrogance. It does so not only through an on-going account of the city itself (which is a character in its own right), but through the Amberson family and the character of George Amberson Minafer, seeming scion of the most prominent local family, and cursed with the presumptions and arrogance of his position. Through the book, the family in general, and George in particular, experience a precipitous fall, as we see the old regime give way to money, industry, and, as George would say, "riff-raff." In addition to the brilliant depiction of the transition of American society, Tarkington creates some truly memorable characters: George, his mother, old Major Amberson, the Morgans (the new generation of successful industrial inventor and manufacturer), and George's Aunt Fanny. On the Amberson side, it would be easy for Tarkington to make some of the characters thoroughly despicable, and we certainly have little enough sympathy at times for George and Fanny. (George is often absolutely hateful, and rather funny in his presumptions; Fanny is a work of art.)But it is one of the exceptional qualities of the book that we never entirely despise even these flawed and unlikable characters. We understand them and ultimately empathize with them, and we not only believe in but also celebrate their ultimate "redemption." Similarly, it would be easy for Tarkington to too easily dismiss the presumptions of the "old" society or, for that matter, to damn the corruption and the dirt and the grasping nature of the new. Again, however, Tarkington does a marvelous job in creating a kind of nostalgia for things lost, and also offering some promise (dark though it may be) for the future to come, combining both "progress" and, just possibly, some of the more enduring values of the past. Perhaps the greatest thing about the novel is the author's tone. He is an ironic observer and accurate reporter throughout, but the book and his prose is infused with a certain humor, warmth, understanding and compassion that makes this a tender portrait, even at its most critical. Further, at the close of the book, Tarkington accomplishes something remarkable. Through the almost transcendent powers of love and forgiveness (the supernatural is rather amusingly invoked), the remaining characters are brought together and reconciled, and we do believe that they have come through and may have been redeemed. Overall, this is a fine book that deserves to be more widely read. It is an impressive portrait of America in transition and the American character in the early 20th century. One comment as to the edition. I bought the paperback that I believe is advertised here and it is one of the strangest editions I have ever seen. It appears it is virtually printed to order, includes no publishing history, and consists of some of the smallest and hardest to read print imaginable. Honestly, it is incredibly hard on the eyes so that you are really pleased to see pages of dialogue that at least break up the print. The proofreading or typesetting jobs also leave something to be desired. Rather than buying this funky paperback, I would try to find an older, used hardback edition. It could only be an improvement.
Quite a bit outdated. The struggles of a privileged white boy falling from grace and having to work his way back up to the top would be seen as tone-deaf in today’s society. Though I admit the love or, at least, affectionate tension between the two young adults is well written and despite the privileged oozing out of these characters, I still found myself empathizing with the constant stalemates during their courting.
Wow, just wow. This is what writing is supposed to be, although I'm having a terrible time putting my feelings into words (I fail at reviewing *classic* fiction). I loved the way the author used spoiled, self-centered George to show the reader the changes brought about by modern inventions and industrial growth, instead of telling us about these changes. How refreshing. I did like George a lot, but there were things he did to try to stop those changes in his life, to the point of alienating those he loved most, things that just make you beg for comeuppance day - but when that comes - oh sniff.
Does he get a happy ending? No, I'm not telling but I loved it.
"Her eyes would look wistful no more."
Have some tissue handy. Booth Tarkington is an author I somehow missed in my school years, and only stumbled upon him whilst shopping the free classics on Amazon last year where it languished with all those other classics I'd downloaded, but thumbs up to the hardworking ladies at Legacy Romance for hunting down these older classics, spiffing them up and giving them a new lease on life in the digital world. I very much appreciated the addition of a write-up on the author, a glossary of terms used in the book and the period images at the end. My copy did have a few formatting errors, but I've been told those are being corrected for the final copy. Five big stars for this one - don't miss it.
Advance copy provided by Legacy Romance, thank you.
This is a classic novel, with my review of the story below; but this edition specifically is of low quality. The layout is all over the place, with arbitrary paragraph breaks. There doesn't seem to be any other Kindle version available at the moment, but I would recommend you go for one of the physical copies. So four stars for the story, one star for the edition. On happier matters, here is my review of the story:
There's a theory that tragedies are about heroes who have a fatal flaw that bring them down. The Magnificent Ambersons tells the story of a tragic character who is one big flaw with just a little heroism which might at the end save him. Young George is a bit of a monster, arrogant, rich and indolent, the scion of a wealthy American family who, at the beginning of the book, dominate a late nineteenth century American town. The story follows the family's decline and fall as old money is replaced by fortunes made in modern America's emerging industries.
The Magnificent Ambersons is an object lesson in that difficult business of creating a sympathetic central character who nevertheless has all the imperfections of real people. Here is a telling moment when George actually apologises for something:
"He said, "Indeed, I'm sorry," in a nice way, and looked very strikingly handsome when he said it, she thought. No doubt it is true that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner repented than over all the saints who consistently remain holy, and the rare, sudden gentlenesses of arrogant people have infinitely more effect than the continual gentleness of gentle people. Arrogance turned gentle melts the heart;"
The Ambersons are a flawed bunch, yet their disappearance into dirty, industrial modernity is not exactly a triumph. I suppose we have to hope that a deeply flawed world, in whatever form it presents itself, has enough heroism to save it in the end. Some small measure of goodness in a bad situation is more striking than unending saintly bliss.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 26, 2013
"The Magnificent Ambersons" is the second book of a trilogy about changes in the society of the United States Midwest after the Civil War. Its main interest is that, in describing the rise and fall of the Amberson family, it reflects the changes in society over this period. It is well written and very good on description, but it has one major flaw. Its main character, the spoilt and arrogant George (or Georgie), is totally unsympathetic. Clearly, Tarkington intended him to be like this and (from a moralistic point of view) Georgie's comeuppance is richly deserved. It is just a shame that it takes until the last three or four chapters to arrive. it is best read as social commentary rather than as a novel
3.0 out of 5 stars'The Amberson name...is the proudest name in this town and it's going to stay the proudest'
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 26, 2013
Quite an enjoyable read, set in turn of the century America. George Amberson Minifer is the spoilt only child of one of the wealthiest families in town. As he prepares to leave college, he intends to live an idle life as a gentleman; and when he meets the lovely Lucy Morgan, he envisions marriage. But Lucy's father was once in love with George's mother... Add to the mix poor spinster Aunt Fanny, who seems to have a crush on Mr Morgan herself... The background to the novel is the rapidly changing world of the time. Mr Morgan is making his money in the new 'horseless carriages'; the towns are growing and the former exclusive neighbourhoods are being surrounded by factories and shops. I enjoyed it but wouldn't call it a must-read.
5.0 out of 5 starsThoroughly enjoyable and still relevant
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 20, 2018
I very much like Booth Tarkington's style and greatly enjoyed this book until the end, which I found too unlikely. Despite this, I look forward to reading other books by Tarkington. Considering that he was once considered America's greatest writer, it seems a shame that he is so little heard of now. Once you look beyond the fact that the book is a hundred years old, I think it still has something relevant to say about society, money and misplaced pride.
This is one of my favourite books. I have read it about half a dozen times and still love it. The characters are as real as you could want, the story riveting and the portrayal of changes in society masterful. This book SHOULD be read - like a Dickens or a Fitzgerald.