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The Plutocrat is a very good novel, but one that I suspect modern readers will find as alien as Jane Austen.

The book is about a young playwright, Laurence Ogle. Flying high on the success of his first play, he books passage for North Africa.

against photos of 2016 rich people, text says before the Forbes list, there was The Plutocrat.


The Plutocrat by Booth Tarkington
1927 bestseller #2. 543 pp. My grade: A-

On board ship, Ogle is smitten with the sophisticated good looks of a Parisian woman with a son about his own age.

Mme. Momoro, however, is more interested in an American businessman who is dragging his family across the Atlantic to get daughter Olivia away from an unsuitable young man.

To Ogle, Mr. Tinker appears to be a course, back-slapping shopkeeper, totally lacking in culture and sensitivity; the wife appears dull; the daughter sullen.

Ogle has been brought up to believe in a natural aristocracy of intellectual, artistic individuals. He’s shocked that other intelligent people express high regard for Tinker and his buying power.

When Ogle finds himself far from home, short of money, without friends, he’s forced to re-think his prejudices.

Even if Booth Tarkington weren’t such a fine writer, The Plutocrat would be worth reading just to see how far we Americans have come — or gone — in the last century in our regard for the power of money.

©2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Eleanor H. Porter recovered from writing two Pollyanna novels with the 1918 publication of Oh Money! Money! a rollicking tale that makes “the glad girl” look downright dull.

It also manages to make good financial sense.

Stacks of money with surprinted message that money won't buy happiness unless exchanged for things that will bring happiness


Oh, Money! Money! A Novel by Eleanor H. Porter

Helen Mason Grose, illus. 1918 bestseller #5. Project Gutenberg ebook #5962.
My grade: B+.


At age 52, bachelor Stanley G. Fulton knows he should name an heir to his $20 million.

His only family are three cousins named Blaisdell whom he’s never met.

He decides to them each $100,000 a test of their ability to manage a sudden windfall.

Calling himself John Smith, a man doing research into the history of the Blaisdell family,  Stan travels east to Hillerton and becomes a boarder with his cousin Fred’s family.

His research allows “Mr.Smith” entree into the homes of all his relatives so he can see how each recipient handles a windfall.

His unassuming personality soon has them accepting his presence at every discussion of family business.

Stan is introduced to “Poor Maggie,” a relative by marriage whose good sense and empathy make her a favorite with everyone in Hillerton.

Unlike the Pollyanna novels that sound forced, Money! sparkles.

“Mr. Smith” and “Poor Maggie” don’t have to play a glad game: They’re mature people who’ve learned how to be content.

And the three Blaisdell households’ different attitudes toward money reflect small town America into the 1930s.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Although Jack Kinsella’s Uncle Jimmy was a little man, when he threw his weight around, he got what he wanted.

Except for one time when his plan backfired.


All In the Family by Edwin O’Connor

Little, Brown, 1966. 434 pages. 1966 bestseller #10. My grade: B+.


Red type, black dingbats are only art on cover of All in the FamilyBy the time his three sons are grown, Jimmy decides one of them will have to go into politics to “give back.”

Since the eldest son has chosen the priesthood, the task falls to the youngest son, Charles.

The middle son, Phil, is his campaign manger.

Jimmy supplies money, influence, and drive, all of which has in abundance.

The family try to get cousin Jack involved, but as much as Jack loves his cousins, he is his father’s son: His father refused to bow to Jimmy’s will.

Besides, Jack is too focused on his reconciliation with his wife to have much time for politics.

Edwin O’Connor is a fine writer. The opening chapter is a pearl, worth reading all by itself.

Although O’Connor leaves a glimmer of hope in the final chapter, the novel is permeated with a sense of melancholy.

Jimmy’s ambition destroys his most cherished asset: his family.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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In The Turmoil Booth Tarkington has crafted a novel about human and national ambition that illuminates while it entertains.

Abandoned clay factory

Sheridan — he’s called only by his last name — built his town into a city by hard work, business acumen, including some shady deals, and luck.


The Turmoil by Booth Tarkington

1915 bestseller #1. Project Gutenberg ebook # 1098 My grade: B+.


Sheridan’s long-range plan is to turn all his operations over to his sons. Jim and Roscoe are already in management.

His father has no luck getting son Bibbs, “the odd one,” interested in business.

Mary Vertrees’ family, once the city’s social leaders, have fallen on hard times. Mary must marry money to save her parents.

Mary sets her cap for Jim Sheridan. He is killed in an accident the same day Mary realizes she cannot marry him.

Mary and Bibbs become friends. Mary encourages his interest in writing, but Bibbs’ father wants him in the business.

Bibbs has to choose between his writing and his family —  and decide whether Mary is part of his future.

Tarkington’s characters are believable bundles of contradictions. The elder Sheridan is a tyrant, for example, but a tyrant who means well. Bibbs is sensitive and insightful, but has his father’s business sense.

This romance set against a begrimed backdrop of an Industrial Age city is one you won’t soon forget.


Tarkington planned a trilogy of novels about the American worship of Bigness and the money it brings. The Turmoil was the first of the set that he wrote, but when Tarkington collected the novels in a single volume called Growth in 1927, he placed it as the second novel in the set.

©2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Image: Abandoned clay factory photo by anafa

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