Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington

3 stars - worth reading
1919 Pulitzer Prize

Library junkies, like me, will appreciate that the version I obtained from my local library was not the pristine edition shown above, but this well worn volume, donated to the library in 1980, no doubt during somebody's housecleaning activities. Ah, the smell of a well worn book. 

And what of the book itself? First of all, the writing is absolutely delicious. Almost every page contains a treasure. Here is one of my favorites:

"Mrs. Johnson came in, breathing noticeably: and her round head, smoothly but economically decorated with the hair of an honest woman, seemed to be lingering far in the background of the Alpine Bosom which took precedence of the rest of her everywhere."

Love it! The book takes place in the early 20th century, a time not unlike the times we live in today with technology expanding at an alarming rate and personal fortunes that seemed so secure at one moment gone in the next.

The central character, George Amberson, demonstrates that the trials of youth have changed little over the decades. He suffers from an inflated idea of the world revolving around him... with tragic consequences.

Another example of the writing is taken here from a letter posted to George's mother after a young George assaulted another boy (for yelling slights about George's mother).

"I trust such a state of undisciplined behaviour may be remedied for the sake of the reputation for propriety, if nothing higher, of the family to which this unruly child belongs."

Ah, my middle aged brain mourns the loss of the full use of the English language in everyday speech as well as a time when people could resolve their issues without resorting to a punch in the face or some sort of slander on the Internet.

Orson Welles made a movie out of the book in 1942. I was kind of glad that the DVD version wasn't available as I have never been a fan of Orson Welles (and this book certainly has a "Rosebud" ending) but as part of my Pulitzer journey, I am going to try and watch movie versions after reading the books.


  1. I'm going to have to find a copy. It still sounds like something I'd like. Of course, I also liked Orson Welles (until he devoured most of Vermont in a single sitting, that is), so who knows. It's been added to the list.

    -Dr. Liz, who is STILL not reading about fluoroscopy - soon, very soon!

  2. I'll add this one to my list, though it won't be at the top of the list.

  3. Another author I read and loved 50 years ago and should revisit. Also loved Seventeen, although as a reviewer noted years ago, if it were written today if would have to be called Twelve, about a young lady's disappointment in love.

    Movie was ok. Always liked Joseph Cotton. And Welles was never dull, although he was often over the top.


  4. I rented the movie from Netflix, and I think it might have been a Masterpiece movie, but just didn't get into it. I think I have it on my Kindle, and plan on reading it sometime. And I remember reading Seventeen, mentioned by Jed and Abby's mother, although I hadn't put the author together with this book!

  5. OH MM!! So glad you listened to the RH and did this. I'll be back!