Pulitzer winner Magnificent Ambersons no great prize today

Booth Tarkington didn’t have a novel on the bestseller list in 1918, but he did win a Pulitzer Prize for a novel he published that year.

The Magnificent Ambersons is a coming of age novel plastered on top of a study of the rise and fall of an American family.

During the panic of 1873, General Amberson made a killing that propelled his family to the top of the Midland social ladder.

Grandson Georgie is a snob of the nastiest sort. Most of the town would like to see him get his comeuppance.

Georgie falls for a charming girl whose father, Eugene Morgan, had been in love with his mother years before. Eugene is in the automobile business, on his way to becoming far richer than the Ambersons.

When his widowed mother begins seeing her old beau again, Georgie throws a fit. Used to doing everything Georgie wants, his mother gives in and dies without seeing Eugene again.

Georgie finds himself sudenly penniless, jobless, homeless. He’s gotten his comeuppance, but the people who wished it on him are not around to see. Autos and industrialization have changed the town beyond recognition.

The Magnificent Ambersons is one of Booth Tarkington’s less successful stories. Georgie is too nasty to be an appropriate target for Tarkington’s usual gentle satire, and Georgie’s growing up is too sudden to be plausible.

The Magnificent Ambersons
By Booth Tarkington
Illus. Arthur William Brown
Doubleday, Page, 1919
516 pages
Project Gutenberg ebook #8867
My grade: C+
© 2008 Linda Gorton Aragoni

 

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Linda Aragoni

I read. I write. I think. I make big ideas simple. I help teachers teach expository writing to teens and adults. In my free time, I read and review old novels.

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