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The Gilded Age

3.57  ·  Rating Details ·  838 Ratings  ·  98 Reviews
Arguably the first major American novel to satirize the political milieu of Washington, D.C. and the wild speculation schemes that exploded across the nation in the years that followed the Civil War, The Gilded Age gave this remarkable era its name. Co-written by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, this rollicking novel is rife with unscrupulous politicians, colorful plu ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published March 14th 2006 by Modern Library (first published 1873)
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Jim
Apr 03, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it
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
Dec 28, 2012 Steven rated it really liked it
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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Joseph Soler
Mar 04, 2010 Joseph Soler rated it it was amazing
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
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 13, 2011 Wanda rated it really liked it
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
...more
Judi
Sigh. I shall ever be smitten by Mark Twain. If I were to have a fantasy dinner party he would definitely be a guest. (Along with Woody Allen) This book shattered any remaining illusions/delusions' I may have held regarding our noble democracy and dedication to ethics and principals in government - business. A very barbed satire indeed. Mark Twain's observations of The Gilded Age remain spot on today. I am off to crawl under my bed and wait for the Great Apocalypse. Trust no one.

Re-read Decembe
...more
Christiane
Jun 15, 2015 Christiane rated it it was ok
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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Jane
Dec 11, 2011 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!
Mark Allen
Jan 09, 2008 Mark Allen rated it liked it
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
...more
Kurtbg
Mar 30, 2017 Kurtbg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A lesser known co-authored work with Mark Twain that takes a satirical look at get-rich schemes and political shennagins in the mid to late 1800's. I thought the weaving of story, character, and value to humanity was balanced better than some later 20th century books, such as those written by Aldous Huxley and Thomas Mann. I could also be said to pave the way for Upton Sinclair's, The Jungle.

Even still, the book serves as representative (albeit skewed) critique of the times. Who would have thoug
...more
Roberta
Mar 05, 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
...more
Marty Reeder
Jul 11, 2016 Marty Reeder rated it really liked it
In this my year of Mark Twain, I am starting to work down the line into books of his that are less-well-known, and The Gilded Age definitely fits that bill. It is most well known for its coining of a phrase that would mark an historical era, but if you would’ve asked me (or any American history teacher who uses the phrase multiple times each year) what the story was behind the title, I would’ve either shrugged or made up a convincing lie (you shouldn’t have asked me and put me in the position to ...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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Deborah
Jan 20, 2008 Deborah rated it really liked it
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
Ed
Sep 02, 2011 Ed rated it really liked it
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
Hadrian
Mar 23, 2012 Hadrian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, 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
Somaye Homayoun
Jul 11, 2013 Somaye Homayoun rated it liked it
به عنوان یه خواننده معمولی انتظار دارم احساساتم با خوندن یه کتاب تحت تاثیر قرار بگیره خصوصا این روزا که همه حس هامو گم کردم انتظار دارم یه کتاب حد اقل چندتا جمله تامل برانگیز داشته باشه و وقتی کتابی رو تمام میکنم تغییری در درونم احساس کنم
اما این کتاب بیشتر شبیه یک گزارش بود یه گزارش از فعالیت های اقتصادی و سیاسی یک گروه از مردم آمریکا در دوران شکوفایی و رشد اقتصادی. دوره ای که وسوسه رسیدن به ثروت هنگفت بدون تلاش آنچنانی مردم زیادی رو سرگرم خودش کرده بود و البته اکثر شخصیت های این کتاب در نهایت ب
...more
D.J.
Apr 20, 2008 D.J. rated it it was ok
Gave up after 100 pages - just couldn't do it. Not one of his better books, in my opinion.
Bob
Mar 11, 2017 Bob rated it really liked it
Middlemarch meets Life on the Mississippi.

This was an interesting listen (I listened to the unabridged reading by Robin Field on Audible, itself an excellent production) at the same time I was watching the close seasons of Hell on Wheels. Two views of the same era and schemes.

So many very quotable sections that could as easily apply to our current president and Congress.

Worth reading/hearing, though there are some fairly tedious Middlemarch-like sections. You know when you are in the sections T
...more
sabisteb
Apr 01, 2016 sabisteb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today gab einer ganzen US Era ihren Namen. The Gilded Age umfasst die Jahre 1870 bis 1900, eine Zeit, die gekennzeichnet ist durch Spekulation und schnellem ökonomischem Wachstum. Diese Zeit war eben nicht golden sondern nur oberflächlich vergoldet, darunter war alles so verrottet wie zuvor. Jeder versuchte in dieser Zeit durch wenig Arbeit aber viele spekulative Aktionen schnell reich zu werden und durch Schneeballsysteme und Bestechung einen Großteil der Anleger zu ru ...more
Mattr76
Jan 02, 2017 Mattr76 rated it liked it
The Gilded Page? Twain's collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner is a somewhat interesting but ultimately unsatisfying book. Probably the chief takeaway is the remarkable contrast between Twain's singular style with that of a (I presume) typical Victorian-era author. Warner's prose is fine, and occasionally very good, but more often than not I wanted to get his chapter(s) over with so I could read Twain's words again.

The story follows the ups and downs of a few families in the growth period fol
...more
Feisty Harriet
Dec 13, 2013 Feisty Harriet rated it really liked it
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
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
...more
George
Jan 02, 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
Lora Shouse
Sep 12, 2014 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
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
...more
John Harder
Oct 30, 2013 John Harder rated it really liked it
“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
Tom Hill
Sep 27, 2016 Tom Hill rated it liked it
It may be sacrilegious to give such a classic novel only three stars, but I call them as I see them. There are multiple story lines going on in this book, some more interesting than others, but the main theme is to describe what America was like after the Civil War. Opportunities to make and lose a lot of money abounded and there was no shortage of people to be taken advantage of. Wealth created by one good idea is soon lost in the next scheme to come along. I get the impression from the authors ...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
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
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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.” 17 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.” 6 likes
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