Saturday, November 3, 2012

Early Autumn by Louis Bromfield

Early Autumn
by Louis Bromfield
Pulitzer Prize

1 star - couldn't finish

Oh come on, Pulitzer Prize committee. Please. 

I never even heard of Louis Bromfield. OK, I don't know everything. "Perhaps," I thought, "I will discover a wonderful new author. Isn't that part of why I am reading these Pulitzer Prize books in the first place?"

The book got off to a rocky start. I found the introduction of characters a bit convoluted and almost needed a scorecard. It didn't help that there were so many names that were the same: Sabina, Sybil, Sabine (yes, both Sabina and Sabine). I stayed strong and within fifty pages or so I had them mostly sorted out.

Then there was the fact that the action takes place in Massachusetts, but in the fictional town of Durham. I never got my head around that and part of me kept thinking everybody was at their summer place in the Carolinas.

So, what of the story? Rich family. Snobby. Black sheep. Crazy lady locked up in the north wing. Sick kid. Blah, blah, blabbity, blah, whatever.

The main character is Olivia Pentland. Sad lady. Trapped in loveless marriage. Boo hoo. Sorry, but I wasn't getting into it at all. 

The author almost drew me back in with the promise of revealing some family secrets as well as the budding romance between poor Olivia and the common landowner, O'Hara. Almost. Lots of words, lots of details, but all the wrong details. Cardboard figures. 

By page 100 I was skimming, by page 150 I was done. Blech.

Good thing, too, because I went online to see how it all turns out and I had I struggled through the remaining half of the book I would have been pig biting mad by the end. Turns out none of the surprises were very surprising after all.

Let's see...

The great founder of the Pentland family was a bastard child who stole the name from an aristocratic family. Uh oh. The old man really was having an affair but he kills himself by riding his horse off a cliff. Whoops. Olivia decides that the noble thing to do is to become the leader of what is left of the Pentland clan rather than taking a chance on love (i.e. running off with O'Hara). Please. Seriously?


  1. Oh my gosh! You and I are related, I think, because I do the same things if I can't get through a book! I try really hard to like the book because of its status and then feel terrible for not liking it and then I read the synopsis,etc, afterwards just to find out what happens in the end. Great review, as always. Very funny!

  2. The only book I've really enjoyed where I kept a scorecard was Robert Graves I, Claudius. And that was mostly because there were too many people have incestuous relationships, and marrying half-siblings and whatnot. (Seriously, once you map out who is married to who, who killed who, and who is the illegitimate off-spring of whom, I, Claudius is GREAT.) This sounds excruciating. I'm not sure I would have even cared to read the synopsis - when I reach the point that I don't care about the characters, I couldn't care less if they ALL jump off a cliff... Maybe the Pulitzer committee was drunk that year... ;-)

    -Dr. Liz, who needs a nap

  3. Thanks for reading all of these prize winning books and winnowing out which ones are not worthwhile for me. Seriously. I love books from that time frame, mostly, but if you need a score card, it's probably not going to be a good time.

  4. Sounds tedious. Many decades ago I read all the Elsie Dinsmore books, which upon mature reflection were similarly tedious. Most memorable scene was a 10 or 12 year old Elsie refusing to play the piano on a Sunday [because it was the Lord's Day] when her father wanted to show off her musical skills. She decided the Fourth Commandment was more important than the Fifth. She sat at the piano for hours and hours without food or water [or a potty break] until she fainted and cracked her head. One thing that hasn't changed is that pre-teens [and teens and some 'adults'] can still be incredibly stubborn, not to say boneheaded. One hundred years later, a few thousand miles east, and a change of sex - presto, a fanatical pre-teen suicide bomber. What I did enjoy about the books was the detailed, if somewhat questionable, portrait of a historical time that was within living memory of my grandmother. The dresses, the food, the day to day housekeeping. And it's good to know how far we have come, liberation-wise. When my mama was born, women still didn't have the right to vote.

  5. LOL!! I have recently tried to read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. One of those 'famous' books that I have always felt I 'ought' to read. I got through the first 3 chapters, decided to read an online synopsis in the hope that it would inspire me, and enlighten me as to who the characters encountered so far actually were. I couldn't follow the synopsis, never mind the actual novel. I suspect it will remain forever unfinished. Ah well. Good to know I am not the only one who doesn't finish books.