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A Special Providence

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  812 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
Robert Prentice has spent all his life attempting to escape his mother's stifling presence. His mother, Alice, for her part, struggles with her own demons as she attempts to realize her dreams of prosperity and success as a sculptor. As Robert goes off to fight in Europe, hoping to become his own man, Richard Yates portrays a soldier in the depths of war striving to live u ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published April 27th 2011 by Vintage (first published 1969)
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Cheryl Klein
Jun 14, 2010 Cheryl Klein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, classics
Richard Yates understands people's pretensions and self-delusions better than any writer I've read. He gets that when people stomp out of a room, there's a small movie playing in their head in which a person stomps out of a room. He gets that, even in war, people are sometimes brave because they like the idea of being brave, not necessarily because they want to protect their country. In Revolutionary Road, this reality was profoundly depressing (but still a great read). In this novel, which alte ...more
Justin Evans
Jan 29, 2010 Justin Evans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Nice to see Yates leave the upper-middle class homes of the suburbs for the battlefields of world war II! All his usual preoccupations are here though: dilettante artists, men without any self-confidence to do what they want to, the stupidity and violence of most people. They're in a slightly different key to his better known books though. The key relationships here are between mother and son, or son and other men, rather than man and woman. It's a nice change actually. And makes me feel plenty ...more
Mentre si avviavano per tornare a casa in ordine sparso, lui poté spostare lo sguardo dall'una all'altra di quelle figure che camminavano e parlavano e bearsi della semplice consapevolezza che quelli erano gli uomini del suo plotone. Questa era la sua squadra, questi erano gli uomini con i quali avrebbe attraversato il fiume e trovato quel che rimaneva della sua opportunità di espiare, quel che rimaneva della guerra.
Apr 03, 2012 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2012
I've yet to discover an author who captures delusion and disillusion as well as Yates. Wonderfully flawed and self-conscious characters fumbling around with their inner demons, going nowhere fast, floundering in loneliness and desperation.

Alice Prentice is a wannabe artist in her 50's left wandering around her apartment alone with her regrets. Her son Bobby is 18 and a laughing stock as he fights in WWII. Not my favorite of Yate's work, but still wonderful and readable and sad.
Feb 24, 2017 Celeste rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana
"Tutti sembravano felici tranne Prentice, che provava un fastidioso senso di insoddisfazione. La guerra era finita troppo presto."

Qui per l'intera, noiosa recensione: https://unastanzatuttapermeweb.wordpr...
Arshia Ladhar
Feb 28, 2014 Arshia Ladhar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After finishing this book, I have noticed how the author, Richard Yates, depicts characterization throughout telling his story. For instance, the protagonist Bobby Prentice, is seen as a very difficult man who does not really show his emotions. His mother, Alice Prentice, plays a major role in his life, because growing up with only her made him change his view towards the world. Furthermore, he eventually decides to transform into a soldier and enter World War II after high school. Although Alic ...more
Jan 30, 2010 M rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, this was refreshing - apparently Yates does know a world outside the suburban malaise. Of course there is still the desperation of people yearning for something 'interesting' but the change of venue was appreciated.
With his usual elegance, Yates conveys the parallel struggle of a mother and her son, he battling the Germans as well as his inner demons and she battling reality. Alice, a divorcee, is a sculptress and seems to feel above work of any kind, and so she and her coddled son end up
Peter Korsman
A typical Yates book with his familiar characters full of hopes and dreams that this cruel world in combination with their self consciousness will crush. The story telling accounts the life of Alice, a mother with artistic ambitions that won't pay the bill or the desired upper class life. In spite of this she blindly keeps faith and drags her son along in this hopeless travelling, moving and painful acts to keep up appearances. The other story line is made out of the boy's, Bobby, experiences in ...more
Michelle Mason
May 08, 2013 Michelle Mason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
As has been my experience with Yates' fiction, I was at once drawn in & then impatient with the main characters but mesmerized by their lives and experiences. Eternally hopeful, terribly unrealistic but ever so determined, both mother and son in this story spend their days trying to fit it, working hard to succeed and suffering from both bad luck and poor planning. A powerful tale set during WW II with the son as soldier and his mother a struggling artist, the characters are strong and the e ...more
May 25, 2010 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another masterpiece from Yates, who is quickly becoming one of my new (old) favorite writers. Watching these characters struggle mightily against a lifetime of adversity and bad decisions is simply captivating. Yates doesn't hate or pity these people, he just seems to really understand them, and shows great empathy to their struggle. His description of Robert's feverish trek through a bombed out German town left me floored and dizzy.
Jul 04, 2012 Ana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was a happy ending... I can see that a big number of people didn't understand it... The guy had to choose to live his life ou his mother life... he chosed to live his life... his mother was a person that couldn't accept the reality, her life would be always sad, whith him or without him... but he had a chance to be happy.
Aug 12, 2011 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another genuine 5-starer, this novel talks of solitude, unflinching courage, self-doubt.... life.
A selfish mother who loves her son and yet cannot "get it together" for his sake; a son who is determined to grow and become a man despite her misgivings and desperate need to latch on. A war novel, with all the adventure of any, yet still primarily about humanity.
Sep 09, 2008 AGamble rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to AGamble by: Ernieboo
Becoming entranced in this novel took a while, but once it hooked me, I couldn't put it down. Yates manages to capture war, youth, aging, divorce, dreams, and disappointments without becoming overly sentimental or excessively cynical. The result is a beautifully crafted novel, one I'd read again.
Feb 22, 2013 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The parts about combat were boring, the rest was pretty fucking kick ass.
Jun 22, 2009 Athene_who rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is both typical and atypical of Yate's work. It contained the same frustrated, depressed characters I have met elsewhere in his work, and a portion of the book is set in New York suburbia, a common setting, yet it also contains a long narrative set on the battlefields in World War II Europe. It did not surprise me to read that Yates himself served in the war, since the narrative successfully evokes the fear and confusion which Bobby feels. This is especially the case when he has pneumo ...more
May 21, 2014 Beth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As much as I love Richard Yates's books, I find them incredibly depressing to read & this was no exception. Yates seems to have had a very particular preoccupation with emotionally downtrodden people & their motivations & his describes them extremely well. I loved his descriptions of 1940's America & I can see how influential this view has been on film - sort of like a literary Edward Hopper.

The main characters in this book are really quite dislikable - Alice Prentice is a fad
Mar 01, 2016 Librofilia_it rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Richard Yates è uno scrittore che nella sua carriera letteraria, le donne le ha sempre descritte come impacciate, frivole e nevrotiche, pur non dichiarandosi mai espressamente misogino perché lui le donne le amava per davvero e ne ha amate molte nella sua vita, a partire dalle sue tre adorate figlie.
E sono convinta che, pochissimi scrittori sono in grado di scrivere e di parlare alle donne come ha fatto RICHARD YATES attraverso le sue opere e io sono così affezionata a lui, quasi come se fosse u
Mar 27, 2012 Kazi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book takes place in the early 1930’s during WWII where eighteen-year-old Robert Prentice is a soldier. His mother, Alice Prentice has been waiting for her big break all her life. She has been struggling to be known in the art world and get the most out of life always being hopeful that she’ll be able to obtain prosperity. Both Robert and Alice are damaged souls. Richard Yates did a wonderful job in developing Alice’s and Robert’s character. Yates could have worked on developing the atmosphe ...more
Adam Floridia
I'm starting to feel that if you've read one book by Yates, you've kind of read them all. It seems as if he's only ever created two or three characters; each book they just find themselves in new situations with a slightly different back story. Somehow, though, I am not completely bored by them because Yates has rendered them so truly human.

The main problem with this book is that it is more like two novellas loosely and lazily tied together. The story of Bobby's time in WWII is good; the story o
Carlotta Borasio
Feb 12, 2016 Carlotta Borasio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A me normalmente le storie di guerra non piacciono, ma Richard Yates è talmente bravo che potrebbe scrivere anche la lista della spesa ed essere interessante.
La storia racconta di Alice, una sedicente artista e Bobby, suo figlio, che paga la mancanza di concretezza e progetti della madre sulla sua pelle.
Credo che la questione centrale del libro sia come pensiamo di essere percepiti dagli altri e come vorremmo essere visti. Bobby vorrebbe essere un eroe di guerra e puntualmente gli sembra di fa
Stephen Curran
There aren't many writers who set down motivation as accurately and clearly as Richard Yates. He understood people inside and out. Every action by each of the characters in A Special Providence rings true. It's only a shame that the structure lets it down. It's a cut 'n' shut, two novels welded together that fail to form a convincing whole: the experiences of a young solider in WWII and the life story of his deluded wannabe-artist mother. Worth reading, though, for the set pieces on the battlefi ...more
Peyton Van amburgh
Essentially 2 books in one, the first being an intense WWII story, the second an intense single-mother with a little boy story. The structure is a little disjointed, but ultimately makes the end result incredibly powerful. Richard Yates has to be the most genuinely realistic writer I've read (after only 2 books), in dialogue and character development. All the scenes and lines and inner thoughts are so unbelievably genuine and affecting, it becomes a tough book to put down, even at its most bleak ...more
Apr 15, 2012 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3 1/2
I love Richard Yates, and although this is not his best, it is certainly worth reading. Alice is 53 and her life is "at odds with reality". Her husband left her long ago, and she thinks her small amount of artistic talent is all she needs to survive. Her son, Robert, has enlisted in the army during WWII. I love the chapters about delusional Alice and her attempts at making a living as a sculptor. I also enjoyed her interactions with Robert, but not the chapters where Robert is actually at w
Aug 03, 2011 Susu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Revolutionary Road" made me notice this author - and I wonder why his work has gone fairly unnoticed. Special Providence dissects the problem-ridden life of mother and son - dysfunctional families seem to be THE topic for Yates. The story follows hte characters thoughts and actions - observing and refraining from meddling comments he lets the story speak for itself. Neat and straight writing - creating and dissecting characters on the way. ...more
Catherine Shattuck
Richard Yates is (was) such a gifted writer. He can render a character so well in just a few short moments. His specialty is people uncomfortable, unhappy, even full of despair, and yet I never regret having read one of his books. A Special Providence is notable for the faint hope that lifts the novel at the very end, and for an optimistic middle, even while most of the rest of the story finds its protagonists pitiable and lackluster.
Apr 26, 2015 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really enjoyable read, thoughtful, bitter-sweet and full of all of the usual Richard Yates motifs and themes (middle-class American bohemia, the military, dissatisfaction with the suburbs to name just a few...), and I really do think this deserves to be held in higher regard than it currently is.
Once again, I still don't believe that Matthew Weiner hadn't read any Yates before devising and writing 'Mad Men' :-)
Apr 13, 2009 Sean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: good-read
I picked up this book based on the quality reading I experienced with Revolutionary Road. This novel didn't quite blow my mind the way RR did, but it was a fascinating read, nonetheless. I found myself reminiscing about the relationship I had with my own mother, and contemplating the parallels. Futhermore, it was a different side to the WWII genre from what I have previously read, which has been more directly heroic, or awe-inspiring.
Gretchen Achilles
Sep 16, 2011 Gretchen Achilles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another enjoyable novel by Yates. Many familiar elements, life in the 30s in New York and it's environs, etc. The plot I really enjoyed was that of the son--most of his story takes place in France during WWII. I'm not one to choose a book about combat, but it was really good, he put a very personal spin on how it must have been to be an unworldly, raw recruit thrust into action, but also surviving the dull daily slogging life of an army foot soldier.
Aug 08, 2014 Fran rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The ending of this book made me cry. The honesty and empathy with which Yates draws his characters means that you do not always like them or approve of their decisions, but you feel as though you are on the journey with them. All the more powerfully then you experience their hopes, fears and disappointments. If there is a 'message' in this story it seems to be that we are all ultimately on our own.
The story about Bobby Prentice- his mother (a divorced- wandering- overbearing mother)- and their lives together and apart. At Nineteen- Bobby finds himself in the army- and ultimately in the European theatre towards the end of WWII. Bobby struggles with becoming a man- at least in his vision of what a man should be and his mothers struggles with letting go of Bobby- which she ultimately does at a huge cost to her self.
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Richard Yates shone bright upon the publication of his first novel, Revolutionary Road, which was nominated for the National Book Award in 1961. It drew unbridled praise and branded Yates an important, new writer. Kurt Vonnegut claimed that Revolutionary Road was The Great Gatsby of his time. William Styron described it as "A deft, ironic, beautiful novel that deserves to be a classic." Tennessee ...more
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