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The Magnificent Ambersons

(The Growth Trilogy #2)

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  9,981 ratings  ·  838 reviews
Set in the Midwest in the early twentieth century — the dawn of the automobile age — the novel begins by introducing the richest family in town, the Ambersons. Exemplifying aristocratic excess, the Ambersons have everything money can buy — and more. But George Amberson Minafer — the spoiled grandson of the family patriarch — is unable to see that great societal changes are ...more
Paperback, Barnes & Noble Classics Edition, 300 pages
Published July 1st 2005 by Barnes Noble Classics (first published 1918)
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James I have read the whole trilogy and I think that each book can be read as a stand alone.
In any order.…more
I have read the whole trilogy and I think that each book can be read as a stand alone.
In any order.(less)
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Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All the tropes of the All-American novel notwithstanding, the best part of "Magnificent Ambersons" is the creation of its protagonist, Georgie Amberson, perennial brat & complete a$$hole. His impressions on the town, of which he is the most affluent and expectation-filled member, of the riffraff, are outstandingly hell-air-eeous!

There are multiple love stories, some romantic, some familial. There are several dashes with history, especially with the invention of the automobile. Yup, a novel abou
This novel was not at all about what I had anticipated it would be, and surprised me in a very good way. Booth Tarkington is one of those names you know, you feel you certainly must have read, but then you realize you never have. I have two of his novels on my Pulitzer challenge, this one and Alice Adams. I am looking forward to the second now that I have sampled the wares.

Written in 1918, The Magnificent Ambersons is the story of George Amberson Minafer, a pompous, spoiled, arrogant little SOB
First and last 100 pages are exquisite - as good as anything I've ever read. Middle section bogs down in some repetition and tedious dialogue as the world passes the Ambersons by and they fritter away their lives in clueless trivialities. Many readers will not be able to stand the uncompromising stubbornness of the spoiled Georgie Amberson Minafer. All in all, what a talent for description and grasp of the novel's time Tarkington has. The style pulls you right along, simple yet not simplistic. T ...more
Not a memorable story. Descriptions were good but this one wasn't for me.
Aug 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“There aren't any old times. When times are gone they're not old, they're dead! There aren't any times but new times!”
― Booth Tarkington, The Magnificent Ambersons


This is one of those fantastic little classics (it won the Pulitzer Prize's second prize for the Novel category in 1919) that while not exactly ignored, certainly aren't read as frequently today as the author's talent should demand. It was made in 1942 into a movie by Orson Wells (his second film) so it does have that anchor to keep i
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Magnificent Ambersons transported me to a mid-western town in the early 1900s at the dawn of the industrial age. As automobiles begin to appear, as soft black coal pollutes the avenues, the most prominent family in town (the Ambersons) are forced to change.

The reader feels little sympathy for George or his mother. George's mother is blinded by love for her son and creates a spoiled, self-centered boy and man. George (for most of the novel) is an unlikable combination of privilege, delusion
Chavelli Sulikowska
“At the age of nine, George Amberson Minafer, the Major's one grandchild, was a princely terror…”

I just wanted to throttle George “Georgie” Minafer through at least the first half, no, three quarters, of this novel. He is a rude, spoilt, obnoxious and down right cruel child and matures into a uppity, self righteous and still over-indulged young adult. So, it was with this frustrated state of mind I energetically ploughed through this seemingly much underrated 1919 Pulitzer Prize Winner. In fact,
At this link:
Diane, Leslie and I have shared our thoughts as we all read it at the same time.


There are two reasons to read this book, no three:
I wanted to test the author; I had not read him before, and it is considered a classic. Secondly it draws a picture of a time and place - Midwestern America at the turn of the 20th Century. Industrialization, railroads, cars and new opportunities to make something of your
Wow, just wow. This is what writing is supposed to be, although I'm having a terrible time putting my feelings into words. I loved the way the author used spoiled, self-centered George to show the reader the changes brought about by modern inventions and industrial growth, instead of telling us about these changes. How refreshing. I did like George a lot, but there were things he did to try to stop those changes in his life, to the point of alienating those he loved most, things that just make y ...more
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Virtually Booth Tarkington's only novel not a juvenile (what 1919 called today's "YA"), THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS is probably his finest of all, and certainly his fullest. Narrated in retrospect (flashback) from the viewpoint of an Indianapolis-like Midwestern city, it tells the tale of the decline and fall of the Amberson clan, who made their haul in real estate and business, only to fall prey to rapid industrialization and the overweening snottiness of that gleaming heir, young Georgie Minafer ...more
William Durden
It always cracks me up that this is the #100th book on the Modern Library top 100 list. I haven't actually read very many books on that list, but I'm always proud of the fact that I've read the one that just barely made it.
Jul 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not so many people read Booth Tarkington these days. Too bad. He's got a lot to say about the way people are. It may seem a little dated on the surface, but so much of the human nature that he observes so well is timeless. I liked what this one said about character and comeuppances. (Maybe my word choices are a little dated, too. Comeuppances?)
Gary Inbinder
“Nothing stays or holds or keeps where there is growth, he somehow perceived vaguely but truly. Great Caesar dead and turned to clay stopped no hole to keep the wind away. Dead Caesar was nothing but a tiresome bit of print in a book that schoolboys study for awhile and then forget. The Ambersons had passed, and the new people would pass, and the new people that came after them, and then the next new ones, and the next—and the next—”

This is a quote from Booth Tarkington’s great American novel; a
While reading The Magnificent Ambersons, I couldn’t help but compare Tarkington’s work to that of his fellow Hoosier, Kurt Vonnegut. I know, completely unfair, as they are of different generations. But I think they share a certain desire to demonstrate the necessity for kindness in an industrial world.

Interestingly, the other writer that I kept thinking of was Robertson Davies. Seeing the world from the view point of George Amberson Minifer was a little like looking at Canada through the eyes of
1919 Pulitzer Prize winner.

I gave this 4.5 stars but rounded up to 5 because it was that good. This writer and this novel have slipped into obscurity which is a shame, because this is one of the best American novels that I have read from the early 20th century. Tarkington is one of only 3 writers who have won more than 1 Pulitzer, Faulkner and Updike being the others. I was surprised at how good the writing was, how well developed the characters were, and the excellence of a story line that riva
Apr 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just finished this book and I have to say that I actually choked down some emotion at the end of it, which surprised me. I think what got me the most is the regret felt by some characters and also the humanity shown by others. It is set in an important time in American history. A time of change and growth and development. We see a small "pretty" little midland town around the turn of the last century and the known family that pretty much rules everything. During the course of the book we see h ...more
Apr 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Where I got the book: ARC from publisher. Some spoilers in the review.

One of the most delightful aspects of the e-book revolution is the opportunity to rediscover once-loved novels that are no longer household names. Although they're usually available for free, I'm all in favor of publishers like Legacy Romance charging a low price for well-formatted digital versions. I can see that this trend will grow and competition will become fiercer, which is all good for the reader.

I had heard of the 1942
Jan 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, guardian-1000
Maybe even 4.5* While I knew most of the plot from watching the excellent film adaptation (1942 directed by Orson Wells and starring Joseph Cotten), it was worthwhile reading the original novel. Tarkington is one of a small handful of authors who have won the Pulitzer Prize more than once and reading this novel, I could understand why.

Wells focused on the family drama in the film (and ended a few chapters short of the book!) but the book shows that Tarkington is more interested in the wider soc
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the label

Essay #65: The Magnificent Ambersons (1918), by Booth Tarkington

The story in a nutshell:
Originally published in 1918, Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons tel
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1919, this book has always been on my vague to-be-read list. Now and then, I think I want to read all the Pulitzer winners, or fiction from the early 20th century, etc. etc. so I was excited to be part of the blog tour for this release. Somehow, I've managed to not only never read this book but also never see any of the film or t.v. versions, so I was really unsure of what I was getting into -- but I immediately loved Tarkington's writing from the first chapter.

Apparently The Magnificent Ambersons (1918) is actually a part of a trilogy. The fact that I was not made aware of this until I had finished reading it makes me angry. (That's one of the problems with reading the Introduction after reading the book.) Additionally it seems silly to me to include the second book in a trilogy on the Modern Library's Top 100 List. The other two must really suck.

This is the story of the Amberson family and their fortune. We watch young George Amberson grow from a spo
Bryan "They call me the Doge"
The Magnificent Ambersons, to me, belongs in that naturalistic run of American novels that also includes things like Sister Carrie by Dreiser, and probably dozens of others, and which are intent on getting at what it means to be American while at the same time faithfully recording 'the way it is' (or was, depending on your relative position in time, I suppose). As such, I appreciate these novels for the picture they portray and the craft of the storyteller and the entertainment value of the plot ...more
Czarny Pies
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of American Literature
At the time that I started writing this review, The Magnificent Ambersons had been rated by 6748 GoodReads members. In comparison, F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby had 2,316,268 ratings. The disproportion is absurd. The Magnificent Ambersons which won the 1919 Pulitzer Prize is by far the better book. Anyone who likes American literature should thoroughly enjoy this novel.
The Magnificent Ambersons is in its essence a retelling of the Aesop Fable of the Horse and the Ass which demonstrates that
Update: The first time I read Ambersons, oh so many years ago, I was entranced. I felt I had stumbled upon a lost treasure and was equally repulsed and bewitched by the character at the center, young Georgie Minafer. After reading it a second time, my admiration for the Georgie character is unchanged, even as I find myself questioning other aspects of the book. In particular, I object to the presentation of the book's few African American characters and think Tarkington ultimately goes too easy ...more
Sep 29, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, fiction
I may write something longer, later, but right now I'm too irritated with the stupid use of Duex ex Machina at the ending of the book. Within the context of the times, I understand spiritualism could come up. That said, The Magnificent Ambersons is pretty much religious free. Oh, there might be an occasional mention of going to church, and one older character spends some time reflecting on his eventual end, but that's it. To actually hinge the novel's resolution on such a device is bad art. And ...more
This book would have been better if the characters had been more rounded and developed. The character who received the most attention from the author, Georgie, was also the most annoying. The book was entertaining but lacking in substance.
Sue K H
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This passage represents the essence of the magnificence of this book:

"In the days before deathly contrivances hustled them through their lives, and when they had no telephones—another ancient vacancy profoundly responsible for leisure—they had time for everything: time to think, to talk, time to read, time to wait for a lady!"

This is a story about the push and pulls of growing pains during and after the 2nd American industrial revolution, in the fictional midwestern town of Midland.   It is so t
Nov 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Magnificent Ambersons barely made the Modern Library’s Top 100 list when they compiled their take on the greatest novels of the 20th century. It sneaks in at the bottom of the list which gives the initial impression that it’s good, but it’s not great. Well, if you consider there were a gazillion books written in the 20th century and the Modern Library chose 100 of those as the best, it’s really an accomplishment to be on the list. Being ranked at 100 still puts this book in the top 0.00001% ...more
Dec 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who likes Trollope, anyone being rocked by the changes in the world today
Recommended to Tim by: Orson Welles (though I never saw the movie.)
I seem to be reading novels about the failure of fortune and the passing of eras lately.

Like Silas Marner and The Tides of Mont St. Michel, The Magnificent Ambersons tells the story of a man who can begin to live only after he is broken, his sense of his place in the social order remade.

I love reading old books that are now largely forgotten. They give so much insight into an age. It's as much the aspects of the books that are time-bound as those that are timeless that I find fascinating.

Derek Davis
Jan 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's an odd undertone to this novel. The writing is generally superb, the characters beautifully realized, but...

Why is the main character, young George Amberson, so consistently repugnant (a dickhead would be an apt term) yet so well respected as he ruins the lives of those around him? Because he looks good? Because he has endless money? Because he has no ambition in life except to uphold the family name?

How is it that Tarkington's writing sparkles with wit and skewering social commentary,
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Newton Booth Tarkington was an American novelist and dramatist best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novels The Magnificent Ambersons and Alice Adams. He is one of only three novelists to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction/Novel more than once, along with William Faulkner and John Updike. Although he is little read now, in the 1910s and 1920s he was considered America's greatest living author.

Other books in the series

The Growth Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Turmoil (The Growth Trilogy, #1)
  • National Avenue (The Growth Trilogy, #3)

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