Gentle Julia has nostalgic charm

Portrait of Gentle Julia
Gentle Julia

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
Florence in her role as newspaper editor dominates the boys.
“‘Well, men … I don’t want to see any loafin’ around here, men. I expect I’ll have a pretty good newspaper this week.'”
© 2012 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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