From the Terrace Is Downhill All the Way

John O’Hara is a fine writer, but he wrote some boring books. From the Terrace is one of them.

The novel is about Alfred Eaton, second son of a small Pennsylvania industrialist. Alfred makes his mark as an investment banker, then serves as an undersecretary of the Navy during World War II. Along the way he has two wives, three children, and numerous affairs.

At 50, after nearly hemorrhaging to death, Alfred retires to a terrace in California to consider his options. He could work for someone else or start his own business.

He does neither. Instead, he lives off his investments and does favors for people who know he has time on his hands.

O’Hara implies Alfred’s post-terrace life is wasted. Wasted compared to what? His earlier life of womanizing and money-grubbing? What’s valuable and noble about that?

O’Hara blames Alfred’s wasted retirement on his never having made any real friends. Alfred doesn’t seem to notice whether he has friends or not. Perhaps sleeping with his friends’ wives cured him of expecting to have friends.

Be that as it may, I couldn’t help feeling O’Hara would have done me a favor by retiring Alfred about 500 pages earlier.

From the Terrace

By John O’Hara
Random House, 1958
897 pages
1958 Bestseller #5
My Grade: D+
© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni
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