David Spencer's Reviews > The Rise of Silas Lapham

The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells
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's review
Sep 03, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: classics
Read in August, 2009

The book starts off a little slow, but that is just laying the foundation for a very dramatic and tense book. There are some really great overarching themes and some very deep critical theory surrounding this book if you can get a hold of some. I really enjoyed the final two-thirds of the novel and the dinner party scene in the middle of the book is one of the most compelling and well-written scenes I've seen in any book. If you are not liking the story by the time you get to this central point of the novel in the middle, you might not like the rest, but I found it very engaging and a fascinating character study that surprises your expectations and has several revelations and enjoyable plot points in the last half.

Spoiler alert, but I found some very interesting criticism outlining how Silas and the new house he is building are a metaphor for one another, and both are under-developed and a facade with a confusing and mishmash exterior. When the house is destroyed later in the novel, it also represents Silas' self-destruction and internal downfall, but it does have a happy ending. It is also interesting to think about the relationship between Corey and Silas...do they have some unfulfilled desire for one another? And is the only socially acceptable avenue to channel this desire for one another through Penelope? Silas also never had a son, and his relationship with Tom Corey is very interesting in the context of a father-son desire.

Apparently, W.D. Howell's never wrote anything this good, but if you like Henry James or other realist writers, this book will probably surprise you in a good way.
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