Free Air
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Free Air

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  327 ratings  ·  58 reviews

Watched over by her too solid beau, Claire Boltwood lives a life of gracious leisure and nut-centered chocolates among the best of Brooklyn Heights society. Still, she has certain questions about why she’s alive. So when her widowed, plutocrat father is told that he needs rest, Claire convinces him to take a road trip to visit cousins in Seattle. When their spiffy roadster

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Paperback, 241 pages
Published December 9th 2010 by Barnes & Noble (first published 1919)
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Shellys♥ Journal
Written in 1919, this is the story of Claire Boltwood - NY socialite on a road trip with her wealthy businessman father from Minnesota to Seattle. They get a true taste of the wide open spaces as they motor their car through the small towns of the plains and mountains of the west. Perhaps their biggest realization is the beauty of Americans that wouldn't fit neatly in their social circles. Along the way, Claire picks up an admirer in small-town mechanic Milt Dagwood. While he adores her, can she...more
Mary Ronan Drew
It's 1919 and Miss Claire Boltwood of Brooklyn and her father are on a road trip. They are driving west from Minneapolis to Seattle.

Think about it. Most of the roads are not paved. You have to buy gas in cans from a hardware store. The only mechanic in a small Montana town might be the blacksmith. Claire had to know her engine and how to fix it, how to repair and replace tires, how to drive up steep inclines and, more important, down them (in 2nd gear using both the foot and hand brakes.) The b...more
Kathy
I think it was Raymond Chandler who said that when he was writing a story and the plot began to drag, he would have a man come through the door with a gun. Sinclair Lewis did something very similar at the end of each segment of his 1917 serial Free Air by inserting an abrupt meeting between one of his two protagonists and the person he or she least wants to see. The first 150 pages or so of the novel version, published two years later, are so clever and charming that it's a real letdown when the...more
T.P. Williams
If you can get over the condescending, cynical tone of the narrator, book stands our for a couple of reasons - it describes a cross-country car trip at the dawn of the motor age, and again has a female character as the main character. I thought the romance with the man from the middle west was contrived, and the way he kept popping up in the narrative was fairly absurd. Dated, but interesting for being dated, giving a picture of America during and after WWI. Other characters were poorly develope...more
Sylvester
The first half of this book was a surprise to me. I had never thought of what the highways across America would have been like at their beginning, when the idea of a cross-country car trip was completely novel and daring. I wish there had been more details about that, I wish the whole book had been about the road trip. The fact that it's a young woman driving the car (with her father as passenger - he couldn't drive, not having learned how) made the story that much more interesting. Of course, i...more
Johnny
In the silent film era, Sinclair Lewis’ Free Air was a film where a wealthy socialite drives from Minnesota to Seattle and encounters several down-to-earth members of the lower “caste.” Free Air is not one of Lewis’ more profound efforts. It is no horrifying political thriller as in It Can’t Happen Here nor parody of, respectively, business and religion as in Babbit and Dodsworth or Elmer Gantry. It does not reflect a larger ethical dilemma as in the racism of Kingsblood Royal or the medical pro...more
Daze in the Breeze
Bit of a lightweight read from Sinclair Lewis, so it's unsurprising that it’s a relatively obscure effort of his. This is Sinclair Lewis does the roadtrip genre (before that even was truly a genre), and there's a pretty strong dose of class consciousness thrown into the mix. Wouldn't recommend it as a first Lewis book to someone, nor would I recommend it to someone who isn't a fan of Lewis – it’s perfectly fine, but it’s not noteworthy in any way. It also bears mention that, too, the central pre...more
Valeska
Feb 22, 2014 Valeska rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sarah, so she can read a good Sinclair Lewis. Brian, because it would amuse him.
I was pretty disappointed in Main Street for a few reasons, but I liked his plot line in Free Air. For me, it was really fun reading the first book based upon an American road trip. I feel this captured the optimism of the open road really well. There was a transformation of the main character, great side characters met on the way, and wonderful descriptions of the American West. As Sinclair Lewis is from Minnesota, I got excited when he used places I knew such as Washington Avenue.

The only neg...more
Lisa
If you have never heard of Sinclair Lewis before, you can think of him as F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s counterpart. He also published during the ‘roaring twenties,’ but wrote of many different classes of people. It seems he especially liked yoking together characters from high society and low society, to see how they get along. This yoking together is exactly what he does in Free Air (April 1922), the seventh of twenty-six novels he has written.

Similar to what we envision of the 1920′s, Lewis’ prose co...more
Sarah
Light but lovely - it's not On the Road, but it's getting there, as a journey of geographic and personal discovery through the West in 1916, full of little details of food, hotels, flivvers and cupboards with pierced-tin doors, and all the immigrants and plutes and fourflushers. There's something quite irritating in the non-travel bits of the story - boy improving himself for the sake of a society girl's affections and she of course needs to improve herself too but they're both such swell kids.....more
James
If you are usually a fan of Sinclair Lewis, I need to be up front. This is not one of his best. If you are new to the author, you may want to start with Elmer Gantry, Babbitt, or Main Street. However, if you want to give one of his earlier, more minor works a try, this one isn't awful. I know that isn't exactly a glowing recommendation, but compared to a lot of trash the world has to offer (I'm looking at you, Stephenie Meyer), this really is worth a go. And here's why.

I've gotten into arguments...more
J
Jun 06, 2012 J rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Seattleites, historians, road trippers
It's no Main Street or Babbit but this work just before Lewis achieved international acclaim and a Nobel prize is light and fun. It has aged pretty well for a light adventure/romance of its day, especially if you like the era the book was written and set in (both 1910s). The plot is quite obvious, but at least the characters are well developed and nobody is written as pure angel or villain. I probably got the most enjoyment from the setting of a 1910s western road trip and then life in Seattle o...more
Sheela Word
2 1/2 stars really. I like Sinclair Lewis and have read most of his books, but hadn't heard of this one until Amazon offered it to me as a freebie. Now I know why. The plot is meandering and lacks the satirical bite of Lewis's better-known novels.

The hero is a smart country boy who falls in love at first sight with an aristocratic girl who is driving her father from New York to Seattle as part of a "rest cure." The hero essentially stalks the heroine, following her big car with his little one, a...more
Jeremy Morgan
This book was great. I love old pulp, especially when it's a wild journey, and this road trip book was a fun and exciting read. I went through a bunch of public domain kindle books just browsing, and I figured I would read a page or two of each to see what caught my attention. This book caught me on the first page.

I'ts very light like others have mentioned, but it does get you thinking about society and lifestyles and how things haven't really changed all that much in almost 100 years. But it's...more
E.W. Lewis
I have read a good many of Sinclair Lewis' works. Seeing this title suddenly available at my local bookstore I could not resist the impulse to yet again dive into one of my favorite authors. I began the read a bit timidly due to its being written in the early career (and as a serial) of the author.

The book read easily. The language was not cumbersome and flowed one paragraph to the next. The quick humor of S.Lewis was not lost and in some ways even more prevalent than in later works. His use of...more
Mary
Written in 1919 this story is one of the first in the tradition of road trip books. Jaunty with the verbal slapstick comedy and slang it is a great little piece of the era. Lewis has as his hero the working man Milt who is in love, maybe, with the upper class Claire. They meet on on a cross country journey on the New American Road, he in his inexpensive flivver car and she and her father in their deluxe import. The art of driving and how travelers spend the nights, meals and other accommodations...more
Jenny J
I confess: I picked this up after it was mentioned on the tv show "Boardwalk Empire." Published in 1919, this was a light-hearted, road-trip, battle-between-the-classes romance, between wealthy Claire Boltwood ("used to gracious leisure, attractive uselessness, nut-center chocolates, and a certain wonder as to why she was alive) who, on a road trip from New York to Seattle, meets Milt Daggett, the working-class owner of a small-town garage. Cultures clash, drama ensues (bears! hijackers! seedy h...more
Irv
An interesting old fashion romantic story of pursuit and the pursued.
I so enjoyed this read as it was old fashion quite excitingly romantic without all the touchy feely that there often is today.
Not that the touchy feely doesn't also have it's fun, good purpose and place. Kyle Onstott was well capable of capturing that.
Shirley Freeman
I was half way through reading Freedom, the new book by Jonathan Franzen, when I thought "I need to put this down for awhile - just can't stand the characters and their dumb decisions." I wanted to read something nicer. Started searching amazon for romances/cheap kindle downloads. This was 95 cents. Sinclair Lewis wrote Free Air in 1919 just before he became famous with his book Main Street. It is definitely dated, especially in the use of slang for various minority people (uses Jap etc.) but it...more
Travis
I remember enjoying this easy tale of archetypes upon a cross-country auto adventure, at a time when such a thing weren't such a simple idea.
Wanda

Summary: Sinclair Lewis published Free Air in 1919.
Free Air heads toward a West that was brimming with possibilities for suddenly mobile Americans at the end of a world war. The vehicle a Gomez-Dep roadster, takes Claire Boltwood and her father from Minnesota to Seattle, exposing them all to the perils of early motoring. On the road, the upper-crust Boltwoods are at once more insignificant and more noble. The greatest distance to be overcome is the social one between Claire and a young mechanic...more
Gail
Funny, light hearted story of Claire Boltwood's automobile trip with her father from Minnesota to Seattle (long before road trips were fashionable). The book was written in 1919, and involves class struggle but not in Lewis' typical cynical way. This is more of a fun, frivolous travel/love story.

Claire meets a garage owner named Mitt Daggert who gives up all to follow her to Seattle. He ends up saving her from bears, flat tires, bad men (rapists but they wouldn't really say that back then) and f...more
John
Slow start introducing the two principal characters, Claire and Milt, but once their joint (parallel?) adventure gets underway things liven up a bit. Last part of the story concerns "will they? won't they?" after reaching their destination; Claire seemed a bit wimpier, but Milt's so gosh darned likeable that it was worth staying through to the conclusion (there are a couple of plot twists thrown in that provide tension, and comic relief).
Audio narration was good, but so "enthusiastic" that I cou...more
Rachel
Really enjoyed this cautionary tale about the need to be/find your authentic self. Along the road from small town Minnesota to Seattle, the dangers of pretending to be something that one isn't strikes both characters - in very different ways. At least, that's what I gained from it...

Well told - although some of the cultural/time references were a bit tough to read - it was the time that it was...
Maggie
This was book my brother, Tom recommended that I was able to download on iTouch, so took a while to read, since I don't read on that much. It was a fun book set a long time ago. It was about some people driving across the country, starting in MN & how their very different lives interchanged. I was amazed by some of the phrases and things pointed out that I thought was more modern. It was a fun read.
LL
Very well written story of two people letting go of the demands of different parts of society to love each other, how society can conspire to destroy companionship or anything that lies outside of prescribed boundaries. That's one way of looking at it I guess. It's definitely an amazing road trip book...makes you want to travel...that's always a good thing. Highly recommended.
Caleb J.
Sinclair Lewis writes in the vernacular of the day when the romance of the automobile and wide open West captured the imagination of many. He focuses here on social strata in conflict with love and romance. This was and enjoyable book, interesting, charming though not tremendously compelling. Definitely a period piece enjoyable for that reason.
Titi
This was a really nice book for me to read on the long car ride.
This book was charming, sweet, sometimes absolutely insufferable, but in the end, marvelous. Like I said before, this is a PERFECT summer roadtrip book. I recommend it to anyone who's a) traveling and/or b) a fan of authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner.
Leona
I've read several Sinclair Lewis' books in the past: Babbitt, Main Street, Dodsworth, Elmer Gantry and have loved every one of them. This book was written prior to those and the language seemed very archaic even for the early part of the 20th century. I don't recall having such a problem with his later books.
Lynn
Sort of pleasant, but slow and long. Also, it seems to want to criticize classist attitudes in early 20th century America, but it relies too much on class stereotypes to tell the story. This felt much more old-fashioned than Main Street, although I don't think it was written much earlier.
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Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1930 "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of characters." His works are known for their insightful and critical views of American capitalism and materialism between the wars. He is also respected for his strong characterizations of modern working women. H.L. Mencken wrote of him, "[If] the...more
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