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The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today

3.57  ·  Rating Details  ·  733 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
This book is a direct and caustic attack on government, politicians, and big-business in post-Civil War America. It is the book that gave an era its name.
Hardcover, 456 pages
Published March 1994 by Meridian (first published 1873)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,082)
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Jim
I had always wanted to read this book, thinking it was a different sort of novel, perhaps from the point of the wealthy. Also, I had no idea that The Gilded Age was such a serious work. Oh, Mark Twain's humor comes across frequently, especially in the sections taking place in Washington. Unfortunately, Twain had a co-author: the book is signed by both Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warren, his friend.

Twain wrote the first eleven chapters, which were brilliant at times, but the story began to sag
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Steven
Jan 13, 2013 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: home-inventory
I am a huge fan of those novels that satirize the American business man, and we have had a few masters of this genre within the last couple centuries--one of whom only recently passed away, Evan S. Connell. If you haven't read the Mr. and Mrs. Bridge novels, you must!!! They are masterpieces! I am thinking too of Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt, Sloan Wilson's The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit,and William Dean Howells's The Rise of Silas Lapham. All stand in the company of Mark Twain's The Gilded Age.

T
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Dave
Oct 02, 2012 Dave rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature, fiction, humor
It is not often that one gets to define an age, but that is precisely what Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner did with “The Gilded Age”. As Ward Just points out in his introduction, “The Gilded Age” is “the first (novel about Washington) of consequence in American writing.” The full title of the book is “The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today”, and it was published in 1873. Charles Warner was a good friend of Mark Twain and this is the only novel which Twain collaborated with another writer, and it w ...more
Wanda
Nov 14, 2011 Wanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another treasure discovered at a library buck-a-bag sale. The characters are well drawn, the prose is not turgid...and...not a lot has changed in human affairs in a century and a half.
Sure, it's about politics, corruption, greed, business speculation and credit bubbles, so a main point about reading it is seeing how little anything has changed. But everybody already knows that, human nature being what it is.
Nonetheless, one takes pause when stumbling across lines such as, "She did not know how
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Joseph Soler
Mar 04, 2010 Joseph Soler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I assigned in my Modern Novels class because it set the stage for the period of self-proclaimed Modernity by exposing the seedy underbelly behind American "Progress." This is also Mark Twain's first novel which is clear because he has not quite mastered narrative and structure. The book drags a bit at times, but also displays the wit and incisive observation that made Twain a national treasure. The Gilded Age recounts the profound and quite recognizable corruption of the l ...more
Deborah
Jan 20, 2008 Deborah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One morning, not so long ago, my slumber was interrupted by a voice from the clock radio, saying, "If you want to understand what's happening in China today, read The Gilded Age by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner."

My instinctual action upon hearing that fateful alarm was to silence it, and as a result, the connection between post-Civil War America and modern-day China is rather unclear to me. Perhaps the growing wealth and power of China is an illusion, just as the wealth and prominence of
...more
Christiane
Jun 25, 2015 Christiane rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mark-twain
In this book Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner heap scathing criticism on the US congress, the justice system , the press and society in general..
It’s a tale of greed, corruption, influence peddling, lobbying, vote buying, seat buying, bribery, blackmail, hypocrisy, etc. etc. In this aspect this satire is as relevant today as it was then.

Another topic are the big dreams of vast and easy riches harboured by men disinclined to work for them, epitomized by the self-satisfied kind-hearted windbag
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Hadrian
Mar 23, 2012 Hadrian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american, fiction
A comic tale of land speculation and greed that is depressingly familiar. "A Novel of Today" indeed. Although this was written in the early ages of the 'Gilded Age' to which it would give its name, before the rise of the great industrial conglomerates and wars of conquest and imperialism, it does reveal the current spirit of corruption and greed.

This is Twain's only collaborative novel, and despite the possible hazards thereof, is actually pretty good. It is fairly obvious when the other guy tak
...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 04, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Review title: Shockingly modern
Twain (and often-overlooked coauthor Charles Dudley Warner) subtitled this profound satire "A tale of today", and in its prescience it is profoundly and even shockingly modern. Real estate booms and busts, political corruption, energy exploration frauds, celebrity culture, celebrity criminal trials as "reality" entertainment--its all here, in powerful yet powerfully restrained Twainian 3-D. Perhaps it was Warner's influence (at the time of publication early in Twai
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Christy Leskovar
If you think politics is bad now, this book, albeit satire, would indicate that the 1870s were just as bad. I'm guessing that the biting, hilarious, satirical parts were written by Mark Twain, and the more tender parts about Laura's sad story were written by his co-author Charles Dudley Warner. It made me want to look for more books by Warner. I couldn't help but wonder if the character of Colonel Sellers was based on Twain's brother Orion. Some of my favorite parts were about getting the approp ...more
Brandi Carrier
This book had many subjects and themes, at some points I was very confused. Although this style of literature is not and never really has been my thing, I just really was not interested. The wording made it very difficult for me to read and comprehend. The first subject is personhood, an example is when the woman was showing her emotions, " And then, with small consistency, she cried a little, and patted her foot more indignantly than ever.". The next subject is travel, for example when the Hawk ...more
Carl
Nov 12, 2014 Carl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A mostly bitter, unflattering portrait of America after the Civil War. Mark Twain really got around a lot, mixing with about all the social classes, from the bottom up to President Grant. He had a wonderful ear for accents and comical dialogs, and it is worth reading the book just to enjoy the conversations: river boat crewmen, Philadelphia Quakers, Washington high society, jury selection in New York, and on and on.

The book’s plot is ragged, however, and drags in places. The main events of the b
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Jane
Jan 30, 2012 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic, fiction
What's scary is how much the Washington, DC of this 1873 novel has in common with Washington, DC today!
D.J.
Apr 20, 2008 D.J. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Gave up after 100 pages - just couldn't do it. Not one of his better books, in my opinion.
Mark Valentine
Mar 06, 2016 Mark Valentine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's time to get this novel back into the limelight, back into the canon. It is extremely relevant to our own age (full of corrupt lobbyists, corrupt wall street financiers, corrupt Congressmen and Senators, and corrupt speculators); it has some very funny scenes; there are sections that clearly show Twain (& Warner) to be Pre-Modernists; and it has some very important social commentary that we need to read.

I will admit that the opening chapters do not have the flair that many are used to in
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Lora Shouse
Aug 24, 2015 Lora Shouse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Starts out looking like it will be kind of silly, but gets really interesting by the end.

This book was only partly what I expected it to be. Set mostly sometime in the 1870's, it primarily tells the story of one family and a handful of their friends during the great speculations of the time. I sort of expected it to have more of the ups and downs of business during the period, and there is an episode where one of the characters tries to lure a railroad to a certain town and then to get a grant f
...more
Christine Boyer
Jun 17, 2012 Christine Boyer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Political satirists, Twain enthusiasts
I struggled between 3 and 4 stars, great writing, of course, but the story went a little long. Twain actually co-wrote it with Charles Dudley Warner and I wonder if that collaboration made it longer than it would have been (?). Excellent biting satire and parody of politicians, Washington DC, and Congress in 1873. The crazy thing is - the story could have been written in the modern day! Same corruption, pay-offs, etc. Twain was always ahead of his time. This was one of Twain's earliest works - H ...more
John Harder
Oct 30, 2013 John Harder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Money for nothing and chicks for free,” was the mantra during post Civil War America. The Gilded Age presents a caricature of this attitude, which reveals more truth than if it was played straight. The Gilded Age easily stands on its own, however I would recommend reading a biography of Twain prior to taking on The Gilded Age. Twain pokes fun at the schemers attempting to get rich quick during the post Civil War era. However Twain was no stranger to greed and some of the schemes are reflected i ...more
Ed
Feb 14, 2012 Ed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-book
A good read. A dark satire of post-Civil War United States, where the American Dream isn't quite as reachable as it seems. It follows two groups: The Hawkins family and two young New England men, Philip and Henry. The Hawkins are an incredibly poor Tennessee family living off the promise of wealth from selling their property. Philip and Henry try to make their fortune at land speculation and prospecting for coal. The fulfillment of their promises are always just around the corner, but are always ...more
Roberta
Mar 29, 2012 Roberta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is hard to imagine that a political story could provide so many laugh-out-loud moments. Having just completed this book, I now cannot imagine anyone who has despised Washington and its politicians more than Mark Twain! His descriptions of the corruption were hysterical (to me) in their full-frontal assault! Based on his opinion, it is difficult to imagine that he was not thrown out of the country … by the politicians that he so thoroughly lambasted! Too funny!

Of course, there were other disho
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Theo Logos
This book gave name to the period of American history from the end of the Civil War to the end of the 19th century. In it, Mark Twain savages the crooked politicians and speculators that characterized this period of spectacular expansion in American capitalism. For this scathing wit, and for Colonel Sellers, one of Twain's own favorite characters, this book is worth reading.
Unfortunately, the gold of Mark Twain's wit is here mixed all too thinly with the dross of the rest of the novel. This book
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Feisty Harriet
Dec 13, 2013 Feisty Harriet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my history classes in school we talked about the “Gilded Age”, a term coined by Twain and Warner in this book and used to represent a culture where major social issues were swept under the rug or thinly veiled with a layer of glitter that was intended to distract the observer from the actual problems. This is a sweeping story of the Hawkins family, their friends, associates, and lovers and their quest for fame and fortune in the last half of the 19th century. The Civil War is over, reconstruc ...more
Jason Williams
Too long for what (little) it accomplishes. I love dry humor so that's not an issue for me. And I do history, so context isn't an issue for me. It's rather funny still, but undoubtedly funnier (and prophetic) in its day, which is undoubtedly why the age became eponymous. In the words of Matt Stone and Trey Parker, Twain and Warner have their heads up their asses with their own message. What's missing here is any serious consideration along America's various ethnic fault lines; all we get are ges ...more
Claudia
This was my summer "should have read this in college and didn't" read, and not a favorite at all...my friend and I read it because it's apparent we've been in another gilded age, with get-rich schemes, unscrupulous politicians, and poor dupes who will fall for anything. I was frustrated through most of this because, as a character-driven reader, I couldn't find anyone to like...I ended up being drawn to Phillip and Ruth and Alice, in a subplot I read was NOT Twain's writing, but his partner's.

H
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George
May 27, 2011 George rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nook-ereads
MOSTLY DISAPPOINTING / DEPRESSING.

“The concert was one of those fragmentary drearinesses that people endure because they are fashionable…”—page 172

Such might also be said of this book. ‘The Gilded Age,’ by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner is a novel desperately in need of at least one consistently likeable character. Instead it offers up a cast consisting almost exclusively of unpleasant, oily and/or depressing losers—either knaves or fools, all.

To enjoy a read, I need to be able to like/em
...more
Mark Allen
Jan 09, 2008 Mark Allen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: con-artists and their victims
The Gilded Age lent its name to the period of U.S. History from Grant's presidencies through the turn of the century. I read this book through the lens of "been there, done that" during the web-boom of the late 90s, early oughts.

All of the usual suspects are there: smooth talking confidence artists running scams proposed as "market speculations" in the parlance of the times, corrupt Congresscritters, the vulture capitalists of Wall Street (and Sand Hill Road), and the shifty dealers who paddle i
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David
You know how bad corruption in the U.S. Congress is now? Well, it used to be worse. Or, at least it was less sophisticated and more brazen. Now at least there are a few _relatively_ virtuous legislators such as Patrick Leahy and Henry Waxman. Back in Twain's time, following Lincoln's assassination, I'm not sure there were any. It wasn't just Congress, though; corruption -- brazenly venal -- was throughout the political, judicial and executive branches of government at every level. Maybe we shoul ...more
Mary
Dec 21, 2015 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The novel is rather uneven - it's very clear which sections Twain wrote - but it has some wonderful moments. Colonel Sellers, a speculator who builds castles in the air and feeds his family on raw turnips, is a very Dickensian creation. My favorite bit was when the heroine (or villainess, depending on one's perspective) peruses books in a bookshop, easily repelling the attendant's attempts to interest her in sensation fiction and demanding serious literature instead.
John
Nov 06, 2014 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Perhaps Twain's most cynical work yet at the same time one with characters that feel more nuanced; probably due to the influence of co-author C.D. Warner, I might check him out.

An interesting time capsule of American politics and life in the late 19th century, his description of the District of Columbia is a must for anyone who's toured the city in the last few decades.
Shawn Thrasher
A satire, a diatribe, a comedy, a skewering of the 1870s, and according to the introduction of the edition I read, an answer to the sacharine novels being written at the same time. The book is filled many parallels between 1873 and 2011 -- land speculation, greed, schemes, female criminals in the gossipy headlines, government corruption combined with benign oversite. Sam Clemens and his neighbor Charles Warner (I wonder if Sam called him "Chuck" or "Charlie" or "Charles") did not set out to solv ...more
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Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), called "the Great American Novel", and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876).

Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which would later provide the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. He apprenticed with a printer. He also work
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“It is a time when one’s spirit is subdued and sad, one knows not why; when the past seems a storm-swept desolation, life a vanity and a burden, and the future but a way to death. It is a time when one is filled with vague longings; when one dreams of flight to peaceful islands in the remote solitudes of the sea, or folds his hands and says, What is the use of struggling, and toiling and worrying any more? let us give it all up.” 16 likes
“A woman's intuition is better than a man's. Nobody knows anything, really, you know, and a woman can guess a good deal nearer than a man.” 5 likes
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