A Rage to Live Is Rotten to Read

A Rage to Live is a senior moment in novel form. About 250 pages into the novel, John O’Hara reaches the “What was I going to do?” point. He can’t remember, but he goes on writing for another 350 pages anyway.

In 1917, a Fourth of July fundraiser for the Red Cross is being held at the farm of Gladys and Sidney Tate. The governor has pulled strings to get Sidney a Navy commission.

As they go to bed that night, Sidney asks his wife, “When I’m gone will you still be wondering how much I know, how much I’ve guessed, Grace?”

Predictably, in the second chapter John O’Hara jumps back 30 years to begin the story of what Sidney knows about Grace and how he came to know it. Readers learn even more about Sidney’s sexy wife than even he knows.

None of it is pretty.

Smack in the middle of the novel, Sidney drops dead.

The novel dies with him.

Instead of engendering sympathy for Grace, the nasty things that happen to her only make her less appealing to readers. She is, to put it bluntly, a rich bitch.

And, to put it bluntly, A Rage to Live is an awful book.

A Rage to Live
By John O’Hara
Random House, 1949
590 pages
1949 Bestseller # 4
My Grade: D+
© 2009 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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