Anthony Adverse Proves Size Isn’t Everything

Anthony Adverse sold 300,000 copies in its first six months on the market. Perhaps the whopping size of Hervey Allen’s novel made thrifty, depression-era readers think they had a bargain.

Here’s the gist of the confusing tale.

In 1775, Spanish diplomat Don Luis dumps his dead wife’s love child at a convent. Anthony Adverse grows up and is apprenticed to a slave trader who is really Anthony’s grandfather, although Anthony doesn’t know that.

Anthony is seduced by his late mother’s maid, Faith, before he takes his first sales trip. When he returns, Faith has married Don Luis and one of Anthony’s old flames is Napoleon’s mistress.

Anthony’s work takes him to Louisiana where he marries another childhood sweetheart who dies when their plantation house burns.

After the fire, Anthony retreats into the wilderness where he becomes a spiritual giant through some vague metamorphosis.

Captured by Indians, turned over to Don Luis, now governor of Santa Fe, Anthony is rescued by another childhood sweetheart. The couple live happily until Anthony’s death in a freak accident.

The freak accident is the most plausible incident in the novel; the characters and message are equally improbable.

No matter how hard up you are, you won’t find Anthony Adverse any bargain.

Anthony Adverse
By Hervey Allen
Farrar & Rinehart, 1933
1224 pages
1933 Bestseller #1
My grade: C-

© 2013 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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