Charlotte's Reviews > The Street

The Street by Ann Petry
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's review
Jul 10, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: bookworms
Read from May 19 to June 04, 2010

I found the The Street by Ann Petry devastating. Almost too much realism, I could only take so much at any one sitting. Then, I would have to put it down and only pick it up again later, when I felt ready for more.

The descriptive prose and imagery were beautiful; she grips you from the very beginning:

There was a cold November wind blowing through 116th Street. It rattled the tops of garbage cans, sucked window shades out through the top of opened windows and set them flapping back against the windows; and it drove most of the people off the street in the block between Seventh and Eighth Avenues except for a few hurried pedestrians who bent double in an effort to offer the least possible exposed surface to its violent assault.
[…:] Fingering its way along the curb, the wind set the bits of paper to dancing high in the air,…

What I found so overwhelming was the hopelessness of it all. There was absolutely no way of overcoming the urban despair, violence and poverty. Lutie was doomed from the start. So much for the Puritan work ethic: you can go anywhere if you just want it bad enough, if you just work hard enough. Lutie disproves this; she is utterly defeated and swallowed up, a victim of her enviornment.

The snow fell softly on the street. It muffled sound. It sent people scurrying homeward, so that the street was soon deserted, empty, quiet. And it could have been any street in the city, for the snow laid a delicate film over the sidewalk, over the brick of the tired, old building; gently obscuring the grime and the garbage and the ugliness.

Still so pertinent to today's world; to think it was written in 1946!
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