The absurdities of American adolescents are a recurrent theme in Booth Tarkington novels. In Gentle Julia he’s in peak form.
Every bachelor and widower in town is after Miss Julia Atwater. Julia wouldn’t hurt any of them by declining his advances. For all her 20 years, Julia has no more sense than her 13-year-old niece, Florence. Florence alternates between hating boys, especially her cousin Herbert, and inventing romances. Julia merely alternatives between liking all males and loving herself.
Florence eavesdrops on her Aunt Julia and shares her news with all the other Atwaters in town. When Herbert and a friend set up a weekly newspaper, Florence elbows her way in and finds a literary outlet for what she has overheard.
Gentle Julia has about as much substance as aerosol whipped topping. The characters are all lightweights. The plot trivial.
The world Tarkington reveals is one in which people are comfortably well-off. Children are loved and disciplined but allowed freedom to roam. Neighbors gossip, but never in a mean way. Families rally in support of one another. No one drops litter.
If that world ever existed, it’s long gone.
Nostalgia for it remains.Gentle Julia by Booth Tarkington Illustrated by C. Allan Gilbert & Worth Brehm Doubleday, Page, 1922 375 pages 1922 #3 Bestseller Project Gutenberg Ebook 18259 My grade: C