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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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Winston Churchill’s A Modern Chronicle starts off well, with Tom and Mary Leffingwell assuming charge of his late brother’s infant daughter along with the brother’s debts.

From a beautiful baby, Honora grows into a beautiful woman, steeped in romance and convinced her late father was rich, respected, and distinguished. Readers are ready to see Honora learn the truth about her parents, grow up, and recognize that nice, dull, Peter Erwin is the man of her dreams.

By the end of volume 1, however, Churchill forgets the background he so carefully established.

In the turning of a page, Honora acquires Amelia Sedley’s moral code and Becky Sharp’s ambition. A Modern Chronicle goes to ruin faster than Becky Sharp did.

The next seven volumes of A Modern Chronicle show Honora using her looks and charm to climb the social ladder. By 30 she’s been married, divorced, remarried, and widowed. Through it all she’s rarely missed church and never been seen with uncoiffed hair.

The novel has occasional scenes that prove Churchill has a keen eye for telling detail and true scene-painting skill.

Too bad he didn’t deploy them in support of a better story.

A Modern Chronicle
Winston Churchill
1910 bestseller #2
Project Gutenberg EBook #5382

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