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The Magnificent Ambersons (The Growth Trilogy #2)

3.73  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,174 Ratings  ·  576 Reviews
The rise and fall of a prominent mid-Western family centers around the life of a spoiled young man.
Hardcover, 1st Midland Book Ed. Edition, 536 pages
Published December 12th 1989 by Indiana University Press (first published 1918)
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First and last 100 pages are exquisite - as good as anything I've ever read. Middle section bogs down in some repetition and tedious dialogue as the world passes the Ambersons by and they fritter away their lives in clueless trivialities. Many readers will not be able to stand the uncompromising stubbornness of the spoiled Georgie Amberson Minafer. All in all, what a talent for description and grasp of the novel's time Tarkington has. The style pulls you right along, simple yet not simplistic. T ...more
Wow, just wow. This is what writing is supposed to be, although I'm having a terrible time putting my feelings into words. I loved the way the author used spoiled, self-centered George to show the reader the changes brought about by modern inventions and industrial growth, instead of telling us about these changes. How refreshing. I did like George a lot, but there were things he did to try to stop those changes in his life, to the point of alienating those he loved most, things that just make y ...more
Mar 25, 2016 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“There aren't any old times. When times are gone they're not old, they're dead! There aren't any times but new times!”
― Booth Tarkington, The Magnificent Ambersons


This is one of those fantastic little classics (it won the Pulitzer Prize's second prize for the Novel category in 1919) that while not exactly ignored, certainly aren't read as frequently today as the author's talent should demand. It was made in 1942 into a movie by Orson Wells (his second film) so it does have that anchor to keep i
At this link:
Diane, Leslie and I have shared our thoughts as we all read it at the same time.


There are two reasons to read this book, no three:
I wanted to test the author; I had not read him before, and it is considered a classic. Secondly it draws a picture of a time and place - Midwestern America at the turn of the 20th Century. Industrialization, railroads, cars and new opportunities to make something of your
While reading The Magnificent Ambersons, I couldn’t help but compare Tarkington’s work to that of his fellow Hoosier, Kurt Vonnegut. I know, completely unfair, as they are of different generations. But I think they share a certain desire to demonstrate the necessity for kindness in an industrial world.

Interestingly, the other writer that I kept thinking of was Robertson Davies. Seeing the world from the view point of George Amberson Minifer was a little like looking at Canada through the eyes of
William Durden
It always cracks me up that this is the #100th book on the Modern Library top 100 list. I haven't actually read very many books on that list, but I'm always proud of the fact that I've read the one that just barely made it.
May 04, 2007 Tami rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just finished this book and I have to say that I actually choked down some emotion at the end of it, which surprised me. I think what got me the most is the regret felt by some characters and also the humanity shown by others. It is set in an important time in American history. A time of change and growth and development. We see a small "pretty" little midland town around the turn of the last century and the known family that pretty much rules everything. During the course of the book we see h ...more
Apr 19, 2012 Jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Where I got the book: ARC from publisher. Some spoilers in the review.

One of the most delightful aspects of the e-book revolution is the opportunity to rediscover once-loved novels that are no longer household names. Although they're usually available for free, I'm all in favor of publishers like Legacy Romance charging a low price for well-formatted digital versions. I can see that this trend will grow and competition will become fiercer, which is all good for the reader.

I had heard of the 1942
Jan 31, 2016 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, guardian-1000
Maybe even 4.5* While I knew most of the plot from watching the excellent film adaptation (1942 directed by Orson Wells and starring Joseph Cotten), it was worthwhile reading the original novel. Tarkington is one of a small handful of authors who have won the Pulitzer Prize more than once and reading this novel, I could understand why.

Wells focused on the family drama in the film (and ended a few chapters short of the book!) but the book shows that Tarkington is more interested in the wider soc
1919 Pulitzer Prize winner.

I gave this 4.5 stars but rounded up to 5 because it was that good. This writer and this novel have slipped into obscurity which is a shame, because this is one of the best American novels that I have read from the early 20th century. Tarkington is one of only 3 writers who have won more than 1 Pulitzer, Faulkner and Updike being the others. I was surprised at how good the writing was, how well developed the characters were, and the excellence of a story line that riva
Apparently The Magnificent Ambersons (1918) is actually a part of a trilogy. The fact that I was not made aware of this until I had finished reading it makes me angry. (That's one of the problems with reading the Introduction after reading the book.) Additionally it seems silly to me to include the second book in a trilogy on the Modern Library's Top 100 List. The other two must really suck.

This is the story of the Amberson family and their fortune. We watch young George Amberson grow from a spo
Aug 07, 2007 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not so many people read Booth Tarkington these days. Too bad. He's got a lot to say about the way people are. It may seem a little dated on the surface, but so much of the human nature that he observes so well is timeless. I liked what this one said about character and comeuppances. (Maybe my word choices are a little dated, too. Comeuppances?)
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1919, this book has always been on my vague to-be-read list. Now and then, I think I want to read all the Pulitzer winners, or fiction from the early 20th century, etc. etc. so I was excited to be part of the blog tour for this release. Somehow, I've managed to not only never read this book but also never see any of the film or t.v. versions, so I was really unsure of what I was getting into -- but I immediately loved Tarkington's writing from the first chapter.

Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the label

Essay #65: The Magnificent Ambersons (1918), by Booth Tarkington

The story in a nutshell:
Originally published in 1918, Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons tel
May 24, 2016 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All the tropes of the all American Novel notwithstanding, the best part of "Magnificent Ambersons" is the creation of its protagonist, Georgie Amberson, perennial brat and complete asshole. His impressions on the town, of which he is the most affluent and expectation-filled member, of the riffraff, are outstandingly hell-air-eeous! There are multiple love stories, some romantic, some familial. There are dashes with history, especially with the invention of the automobile. Yup, a novel about Amer ...more
Update: The first time I read Ambersons, oh so many years ago, I was entranced. I felt I had stumbled upon a lost treasure and was equally repulsed and bewitched by the character at the center, young Georgie Minafer. After reading it a second time, my admiration for the Georgie character is unchanged, even as I find myself questioning other aspects of the book. In particular, I object to the presentation of the book's few African American characters and think Tarkington ultimately goes too easy ...more
Diane S ☔
Jan 31, 2016 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review to follow.
Jun 01, 2008 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stephanie by: Book club
I did not get the point of this book until the end and then realized it was about how society changed dramatically during the industrial revolution. How the car changed the cities, why all of the beautiful old homes are in the worst parts of town. When I was done I was so glad I read it to better understand how American cities have developed.
Derek Davis
Jan 21, 2011 Derek Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's an odd undertone to this novel. The writing is generally superb, the characters beautifully realized, but...

Why is the main character, young George Amberson, so consistently repugnant (a dickhead would be an apt term) yet so well respected as he ruins the lives of those around him? Because he looks good? Because he has endless money? Because he has no ambition in life except to uphold the family name?

How is it that Tarkington's writing sparkles with wit and skewering social commentary,
Mar 10, 2013 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am dumbfounded as to why THIS novel is not held in as high regard as the vastly overrated Great Gatsby is in terms of being the quintessential American Novel. This was one of the finest written pieces of literature I have yet to encounter. The story opens in an unnamed midwestern town at the fin de siecle. Young and despicable, the protagonist George Amberson Minafer prefers "doing things" rather than "being things" and fails to see the end of his world as his family fortune is slowly overtake ...more
Dec 01, 2008 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes Trollope, anyone being rocked by the changes in the world today
Recommended to Tim by: Orson Welles (though I never saw the movie.)
I seem to be reading novels about the failure of fortune and the passing of eras lately.

Like Silas Marner and The Tides of Mont St. Michel, The Magnificent Ambersons tells the story of a man who can begin to live only after he is broken, his sense of his place in the social order remade.

I love reading old books that are now largely forgotten. They give so much insight into an age. It's as much the aspects of the books that are time-bound as those that are timeless that I find fascinating.

Apr 07, 2016 Grad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Let's face it, the man could write your socks off. The fact that a novel which will celebrate its 100th birthday in a couple of years seems somehow fresh, is remarkable. Eminently readable; memorable characters; time well spent.
Aug 17, 2010 Tressa marked it as never-finished  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
I've been wanting to read this for years, but now I'm wondering if I should continue. It seems a little too obvious and over-the-top when introducing the shallow, elitist, jerk Georgie Amberson. It's just not a very subtly written book. I'm at the part where he just met a girl at a dance, a girl who seems more down-to-earth than most people Georgie hangs with--and every comment out of his mouth highlights what a snob he is. Just seems too pat, if you ask me.

This book is currently not grabbing m
Apr 28, 2016 Kamryn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The greatest tragedy of this book is the misleading first chapter. If a writer was to mail this into a publisher today, it would never make it out of the sludge pile simply because of the way it’s introduced: no characters, no plot, or anything of relative importance to a novel is shown in those imperative few first pages. If I wasn’t reading this because I had to, I would have been much wearier and probably abandoned The Magnificent Ambersons because it opens as a history textbook; however, end ...more
Nov 08, 2013 Justin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Magnificent Ambersons barely made the Modern Library’s Top 100 list when they compiled their take on the greatest novels of the 20th century. It sneaks in at the bottom of the list which gives the initial impression that it’s good, but it’s not great. Well, if you consider there were a gazillion books written in the 20th century and the Modern Library chose 100 of those as the best, it’s really an accomplishment to be on the list. Being ranked at 100 still puts this book in the top 0.00001% ...more
Aug 16, 2015 SW rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Elegant and brutal. The Magnificent Ambersons is set in the lavish American aristocracy in the years leading up to the revolution of the automobile. Like the countryside, Georgie Amberson, the protagonist, is born into opulence and over the course of the narrative is pulled from his blissful wealth and into the lonely and equally thankless dregs of the industrial world. Everything within the pages of The Magnificent Ambersons changes, mostly for the worst, according to the central characters. Ev ...more
James Peavler
Aug 30, 2012 James Peavler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
The 1919 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Literature is, on the surface, the story of George Amberson Minafer, the sole grandson of Major Amberson, the richest man in a Midwesterner city. It themes, on the other hand, are fascinating. What makes a classic novel great is when it reads and feels like a snapshot in time. This is one of those classics, showing the beginnings of the automobile industry and the urban sprawl that afflicted many towns and cities at the turn of the century.

There are vivi
Leona Heraty
Jan 23, 2013 Leona Heraty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone! It's a wonderful story! :-)
Recommended to Leona by: Myself!
This wonderful story is set in a fictional Midwestern small town, and spans the years from around 1883 to about 1905. Booth Tarkington, the author, said that the "Midland" town in this story was really Indianapolis. The story focuses on the wealthy Amberson family, leading citizens of the town. They became rich because of their hard-working patriarch, Major Amberson, who started a thriving home building business after the Civil War.

Georgie, Major Amberson's arrogant, self-centered grandson, wan
carl  theaker
Mar 23, 2010 carl theaker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Now this is a great read capturing the heart, look and feel of middle America in the early 20th century; much like Main Street & Winesburg,Ohio, but more fun to read.

The decline of an upper class family reflected in the changes of middle America in the 1910s. Autos & professional workers as opposed to horse-drawn sleighs and gentry;
the town growing into an industrial city and erasing the former leading families under the coal soot that the factories bring.

Other observations that are si
Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma
This book can be summarised by saying that 'things that we have and that we think are so solid-they're like smoke, and time is like the sky that the smoke dissapears into. You know how a wreath of smoke goes up from a chimney, and seems a thick and black and busy against the sky, as if it were going to do such important things and last forever, and you see it getting thinner and thinner- and then in such a little while, it isn't there at all;nothing is left but the sky, and the sky keeps on bein ...more
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Booth Tarkington was an American novelist and dramatist best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novels The Magnificent Ambersons and Alice Adams.
More about Booth Tarkington...

Other Books in the Series

The Growth Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Turmoil (The Growth Trilogy, #1)
  • National Avenue (The Growth Trilogy, #3)

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