Mrsgaskell's Reviews > The Late George Apley

The Late George Apley by John P. Marquand
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's review
Sep 26, 10

really liked it
bookshelves: 8-star, own
Read from September 14 to 16, 2010 — I own a copy

** spoiler alert ** This fictional biography won the Pulitzer Prize in 1938. Shortly after the death of George Apley, his son John asks a writer friend of his father’s to write an honest and complete biography of his father and provides correspondence to be included. Born in 1866 to a wealthy Boston family, George’s life is one of privilege, one that does not move far beyond the neighborhood of Beacon Hill, the right clubs, and Harvard. Even on the few occasions when he travels elsewhere, Boston seems to go with him. It’s an insular society where one is expected to conform, mingling with only the right people, keeping up appearances, and avoiding scandal. When George Apley falls in love with an Irish Catholic woman, his family sends him abroad. Eventually he marries a woman from a suitable background and fathers two children. As the years go by, George experiences a vague dissatisfaction with his life – he feels that he is always busy, busy but getting nowhere. And indeed it appears that while living in accordance with the strictures of Boston society, the important things have passed him by. In spite of his snobbishness and insularity, George is at heart a basically good, honest man, and one who has a keen sense of the duty which accompanies privilege. One can’t help feeling somewhat sorry for him, having so many advantages, he yet lacks the freedom or the courage to make the right choices for himself and his own happiness. He seems to recognize this on some level, and yet expects the same conformity from his children, although his son John makes choices that George would not have dared to, and yet comes to accept. This is an interesting portrayal of Boston Brahmin life in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I read the book while visiting Boston, staying in Beacon Hill, and enjoyed the many references to places that I was visiting during my stay. This was a gentle satire, and while the narrator of the book looked only with admiration at George Apley’s life, its shortcomings were clear to the reader.

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