Michael's Reviews > Early Autumn: A Story of a Lady

Early Autumn by Louis Bromfield
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Life for society women in the 1920s had its own constraints, the image of "family" was stronger than "self," and the idea of a woman's freedom had yet to be born.

In "Early Autumn," the Pulitzer Prize winner of 1927, we have the story of a family, its place in the society of the times and the rigid rules for family members who were almost the aristocracy of New England.

The story opens with the celebration of Olivia Pentland's eighteen-year-old daughter, Sybil, who is being introduced into Boston society. Also being introduced is their neighbor and friend, Therese Callendar.

It is evident that Olivia is the strength of the family. She hasn't turned age forty and doesn't seem to have time for herself. Her husband spends his time working on charities or on the family genealogy. He lives on an income from his elderly father-who doesn't trust him to run the family business.

At a time without television, one means of entertainment for society women was to spend their time going to the houses of their friends, to be entertained and to learn the latest gossip. This is the case for Aunt Cassie (the family busy body) and Sabine Callendar. The women don't like each other and the author describes them as "...two cats watching each other for days at a time, stealthily."

Bromfield's wit is in evidence when we read of Aunt Cassie discussing joining her late husband in heaven. Sabine gives us her own thought that, based on the husband's life with his wife, the reunion might not be all that pleasant.

Olivia seems forced to live in a world filled with traditions but little love. She does see her daughter trying to escape from this family web and it seems to give her a small glimmer of hope.

She meets a man who brings the thrill of love and a new meaning to life. However, can a woman of society int he 1920s ask her husband for a divorce? What if he refuses?

This is an interesting story of a woman and a wealthy family in New England, at the time in history.

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