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Look Homeward, Angel

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  11,897 ratings  ·  873 reviews
The stunning, classic coming-of-age novel written by one of America's foremost Southern writers

A legendary author on par with William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Wolfe published Look Homeward, Angel, his first novel, about a young man's burning desire to leave his small town and tumultuous family in search of a better life, in 1929. It gave the world proof of hi
Paperback, 644 pages
Published October 10th 2006 by Scribner (first published 1929)
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3.94  · 
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 ·  11,897 ratings  ·  873 reviews

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This book is a masterpiece that I wouldn't recommended to my worst enemy. It is dense, repetitive, overly descriptive to the nth degree, filled with page after page of infuriating, hard-to-like characters, and more or less moves like molasses. It also is possibly the most beautifully written, poetic and longing book I've read. I've cradled it and put it aside variously over the course of the last month and a half -- during one of the most difficult and trying periods of my life: the loss of my j ...more
While visiting Asheville, NC, in May, we boarded a trolley at the Visitor's Center for a guided tour of the city. 'Uncle Ted' was our driver, a retired high school history teacher with a great sense of humor but an occasionally hard-to-decipher accent. He took umbrage if we didn't always laugh at his jokes but often we were just a little slow to parse out his meaning!

But what soon became very apparent was how much the city of Asheville loves its authors--and none more so than Thomas Wolfe (1900
Richard Derus
Jun 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
Rating: 2.5* of five

The Publisher Says: A legendary author on par with William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Wolfe published Look Homeward, Angel, his first novel, about a young man's burning desire to leave his small town and tumultuous family in search of a better life, in 1929. It gave the world proof of his genius and launched a powerful legacy.

The novel follows the trajectory of Eugene Gant, a brilliant and restless young man whose wanderlust and passion shape his adolescent years
Agatha Donkar
This book is my nemesis.

No, seriously: I've been trying to read it for almost six years. I've tried to read it in the spring, the summer, the fall, the winter -- on planes, on the bus, on the El, in Chicago, in Baltimore, in North Carolina. And every single time, I stall out about 60% of the way through.

Stargate: Atlantis fans think that John Sheppard's still trying to read War and Peace after three years in the Pegasus Galaxy; I canonically can't finish Look Homeward, Angel.

I know it shouldn't
Jun 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
sometimes books have to be read at a certain time in your life. for me. this one was the perfect end to college. i finished this two days after graduation. after all of my friends departed for points unknown or home. i was laying in the grass at fordham in the bronx with the sun shining and with the words my mother spoke to me when she dropped me off four years earlier. she said, you won't be back. and i told her i would. but reading this. finishing it in the grass in the bronx. with everyone wh ...more
Jan 01, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those with a Greek and Latin Dictionary with a big dollop of patience
Recommended to Lawyer by: O.B. Emerson, Professor Emeritus English, University of Alabama
Look Homeward, Angel, A Story of Buried Life: Or, Why I Can't Go Home Again

 photo LHA1st_zps46652bad.jpg
Look Homeward, Angel, First Edition, Charles Scribner's Sons, NY, NY, 1929

The manuscript Thomas Wolfe submitted to master editor Maxwell Perkins was not titled Look Homeward, Angel, A Story of Buried Life. Rather, Wolfe had chosen O Lost: A Story of the Buried Life.

 photo Wolfe_zpsb83ba050.jpg
Thomas Wolfe, a buried life?

I call Perkins the master editor for he was already responsible for neatening up the works of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzg
Feb 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Look homeward Angel now, and melt with ruth:
And, O ye Dolphins, waft the hapless youth.

John Milton, Lycidas

One of the greatest novels that he had long ago read.

1937 portrait by Carl Van Vechten

Thomas C. Wolfe (1900 – 1938) published this, his first novel, in 1929. He had begun working on it three years before, and intended on calling it The Building of a Wall, then O Lost. The final title includes the subtitle A Story of the Buried Life.

It's the story of Eugene Gant, his growing up, his family
Mitch Albom
I saw and loved the movie “Genius” (about Max Perkins and Thomas Wolfe) and realized I’d skipped this one as a kid. I definitely shouldn’t have.
Betsy Robinson
Why on earth was I so driven to read this book? I, who eschew excess words and have no problem wiping them out of my own books and the work I edit?

I first read Look Homeward, Angel when I was in junior high school. I retained none of the story, only my reaction to it: awe.

For more than forty years, the yellowing hardcover that my father purchased at Macy’s (per the stamp on the back end paper) has been on my top shelf near the ceiling—a shelf of books that I rescued from death by mildew in my
T.D. Whittle
Every culture has its southerners―people who work as little as they can, preferring to dance, drink, sing, brawl, kill their unfaithful spouses; who have livelier gestures, more lustrous eyes, more colorful garments, more fancifully decorated vehicles, a wonderful sense of rhythm, and charm, charm, charm; unambitious, no, lazy, ignorant, superstitious, uninhibited people, never on time, conspicuously poorer (how could it be otherwise, say the northerners); who for all their poverty and squalor l
David Lentz
Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
When Thomas Wolfe is at his best, his writing is inspired, lyrical and athletic. Clearly, the work may be considered by some to be self-indulgent as the story line stays pretty close to home. Home is located in the hills of western North Carolina at his mother's boarding house, Dixieland. When a writer is fixed on his or her autobiography, and in Wolfe's case this involves his childhood, early youth and college education, the writing seems more non-fiction than fiction. This story is essentially ...more
Mar 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
The first line: "A destiny that leads from the English to the Dutch is strange enough..." Oh, really? This book has definitely not aged well; he has little sympathy for people who are so far outside the right people as to not be of English stock - I would guess he thought being a Yankee well nigh unforgivable.

That said, there's something haunting about Wolfe's prose, which often reads almost like prose poem: "Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger
Larry Bassett
I have been trying to read this book for decades. Literally decades. So, since it has been chosen for the July 2014 read for the GR group On the Southern Literary Trail, I have another chance. Maybe reading it with a group will be the magic I need.

This book is over 500 pages in its original hardcover format and just chuck filled with detail. Here we have a paragraph about Eugene, our protagonist, in his youth:
There was in him a savage honesty, which exercised an uncontrollable domination over
David Spencer
Aug 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
Granted, I went into this book wanting to like it. I had heard good things from Kurt Vonnegut saying it changed his life when he read it around the age of graduation from college and from another writer who said it impacted him. But I believe Thomas Wolfe's first novel here is an exceptional work and one of the best coming-of-age stories for anyone that enjoys the Bildungsroman novels and is fairly literary.

I am not certain that someone who is not an English major or a lover of long and in-depth
B. Faye
Apr 06, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
DNF I give up !! Life is too short to waste time on books you dislike and this one has the most annoying and boring characters ever with descriptions that drag on for ever!
Laurie Frost
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Likely the first and probably still the best portrait of a spectacularly dysfunctional American family by a stupendously gifted stylist, I imagine that readers fall into two camps from which there are no defections: those who find Wolfe's style too over-the-top and give up after 50 pages, and those who find it appealing over-the-top and want to do nothing more but keep reading and either begin rereading as soon as they reach the end or head for Of Time and the River and would happily read anythi ...more
Jun 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
There’s a large rock near the road in Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains. Every time I pass it, I think of the sunny afternoon in 1984 that I sat there and read Thomas Wolfe’s autobiographical “Look Homeward Angel.” I didn’t finish the book there, it’s far too hefty, but it’s the place that I mentally connect to the story of Eugene Gant, i.e. Wolfe himself.

After finishing the book, I drove to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Home in downtown Asheville, just to see the boarding house his mother op
Diane Barnes
Jul 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: re-reads
In revisiting this novel, I found it to be very different from the masterpiece I considered it to be in my 20's. I would have rated it a 5 star at that point in my life, because it rang so true. It no longer resonates in the same way because (maybe sadly) I no longer have the patience for a young man who just wants to get away, from parents, friends and hometown, and rails against them incessantly. The writing is still lyrical, and thank goodness I can appreciate that. Good-bye Thomas Wolfe, nic ...more
Aug 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Very rarely do I hit a wall with a book that makes me think I will never finish it. I inherited this book from my parents, who inherited it from my Nana. It has been sitting on my nightstand for over half a year, where it rests while I turn to other reads for a break. It is currently in seven different pieces. Last Sunday, as I was reading it in my favorite breakfast spot, a page actually tore loose and landed smack in the middle of my oatmeal. Pieces of the binding, resembling dead moth parts s ...more
JG (The Introverted Reader)
I decided to read this because Thomas Wolfe was from my area and I only had to read one short story of his for an English class. I wanted to see what he was all about. This is basically the slightly fictionalized story of his childhood and young adult years growing up in the mountains of North Carolina in the early 1900's.

I read the very first sentence of this book and my heart sank. So I read it again. And again. After about the fifth reading, I finally had some idea what he was trying to say a
Jul 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
So, I've tackled Thomas Wolfe.

This is a tough one for me to rate, let alone review. It's different from a lot of other books/authors I've read.
Stream-of-consciousness. I hear that term tossed around, pinning it on everyone from Faulkner and Joyce, to Fitzgerald and Palahniuk. If that's the case, than even each one of them has their own style within in that ... style.

This book was very "dramatic." The dialogue, the actions of the characters bordered on melodrama. A lot of shrieking and clutching
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a coming-of-age story about Eugene Gant, a young man growing up in the South. If you want more description than that, read what Goodreads has to say; they always do a pretty good job.

I’ll start with criticism. There were a few times I wanted to put this in my “could not finish” shelf. Wolfe’s writing is brilliant—truly brilliant. But as much as I love good writing, it became a bit tiresome and I just wanted him to get on with the story. In places, it was repetitive and the stream-of
Jun 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The quintessential American autobiographical coming-of-age novel.

Thomas Wolfe was born in 1900. So was his fictional surrogate, Eugene Gant. Wolfe grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, a city nestled in a basin of mountains. Asheville was something of a resort community for southerners who wanted to get some mountain air without leaving the South. A lot of people were afflicted with tuberculosis back then, and the recommended cure was to spend a few weeks or months at a sanitarium and breathe th
Books are made out of books and many a book has been made out of this one. It lays such a brickwork, you’re almost obliged to read it, fated. But loving it? I couldn’t, not quite. After the first third I was dying for signs of Philip Carey, finding it so paltry and frustrating after something like Of Human Bondage. A metric ton of adjectives and a tenth of the power or story.

The ruinous Gants are mighty memorable, though, and this is the raw material for so many others. Thank you, Thomas Wolfe.

Vit Babenco
Nov 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
“The vast wheel of life, of which he was the hub, spun round”.
Generally speaking Look Homeward, Angel is about avarice and its consequences. Greed ruined the family and even if the protagonist managed to escape the seeds of destruction were already sown inside him.
Exposed to tuberculosis from early childhood the children contracted this disease and majority of them, including Thomas Wolfe, died of different forms of tuberculosis – so much for a mother’s heart.
“Each moment is the fruit of forty
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An American masterpiece that will stay with me for a long time. Beautifully written and an authentic portrait of the culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I would have loved to read this in a class or with a book club in order to dissect it more thoroughly, because I found myself not having the patience to reread too much, so I just swallowed long, winding passages whole and kept going. One star off for its solipsism. I kept thinking I would have preferred to read the exact same material told by ...more
May 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: modern-fiction
I have often looked at Wolfe's books as surrealistic, his ideas thrown back at him in a necessary reflection of apparently meaningless things, but ones which, by necessity of being so integral into one's being, become important. I can always remember as an adolescent thinking that this book, judging from its title, must certainly be something maudlin and childish, a kind of reminiscence that resides in the happy minds of those who dream without nightmares. For years I wanted nothing to do with i ...more
Sep 06, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: classics
I understand that this book is considered to be deeply influential to a number of respected 20th century writers. And I realize that a number of the passages are experimental and ground-breaking.

That said, my god, this is the one of the most over-written, purple, maudlin, and pretentious things I've read in some time.

There's essentially no plot. As far as I can tell, none of the characters have an arc to speak of. I think the fact that all of the family members are contradictory is supposed to m
Donna Brown
May 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Wolfe astounds me with his writing on every page.
Nov 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite its clever prose, this American classic of a turn-of-the-century boyhood left me cold. I realize that this is the author’s own story, but his fascination with his own literary skills overwhelmed the story itself. Maybe Wolfe was trying to convey the self-absorbed anxt of adolescence, maybe the narrative ends before the author’s figure has begun to mature, maybe the author had not emotionally grown into adulthood by the time he wrote this book, but Eugene, the stand-in for the author, str ...more
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Thomas Clayton Wolfe (October 3, 1900 – September 15, 1938) was an American novelist of the early twentieth century.

Wolfe wrote four lengthy novels, plus many short stories, dramatic works and novellas. He is known for mixing highly original, poetic, rhapsodic, and impressionistic prose with autobiographical writing. His books, written and published from the 1920s to the 1940s, vividly reflect on
“. . . a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces.

Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb we did not know our mother's face; from the prison of her flesh have we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth.

Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father's heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?

O waste of lost, in the hot mazes, lost, among bright stars on this weary, unbright cinder, lost! Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door. Where? When?

O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.”
“Each of us is all the sums he has not counted: subtract us into the nakedness and night again, and you shall see begin in Crete four thousand years ago the love that ended yesterday in Texas.” 86 likes
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