Clarie Ambler is a 1920’s version of a California Valley Girl. A beautiful American heiress, Claire has manners instead of morals, impulses instead of thoughts, and absolutely nothing between her ears.
At 18, Claire’s total preoccupation with herself comes close to getting a boy killed. As she anguishes over how his death could have ruined her social life, she has the first thought of her life: she realizes she isn’t the only person in the universe.
At 21, Claire is acutely sensitive to how she appears to others and totally unaware of the sometimes fatal consequences of her flirtations. Even when it’s pointed out to her, she can’t see how her behavior led to an assassination.
At 25, Claire sees her self-centeredness for the first time and acts with the closest she ever comes to disinterestedness.
Booth Tarkington makes Claire both a typical adolescent and a distinct person. Readers can — and will — laugh at Claire’s self-absorption. But they will realize long before she does that it’s not funny.
We have to take the Claires of the world seriously. An inability to see other people as people, “not just something . . . to use,” is the root of most human misery.Claire Ambler
By Booth Tarkington 253 pages #6 bestseller in 1928 My grade: B+