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Alice Adams

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  3,863 ratings  ·  276 reviews
Over the pictures, the vases, the old brown plush rocking-chairs and the stool, over the three gilt chairs, over the new chintz-covered easy chair and the gray velure sofa--over everything everywhere, was the familiar coating of smoke and grime.... Yet here was not fault of housewifery; the curse could not be lifted, as the ingrained smudges permanent on the once white woo ...more
Hardcover, 468 pages
Published May 1st 2003 by Indiana University Press (first published 1921)
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3.63  · 
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 ·  3,863 ratings  ·  276 reviews

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Dec 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who have read pride & prejudice and need to give their head a shake
Shelves: 2013, novels
cross-posted at http://themocentricuniverse.blogspot....

i wished after reading alice adams that my younger self had discovered it, ideally the version of me who was besotted with pride & prejudice and identified with the impudent, winsome miss elizabeth bennet. i doubt the young maureen would have identified with alice adams at first but it's hard not to see the parallels between elizabeth and alice: both have deep affection for their fathers, and somewhat difficult relationships with their
This novel put me in mind of Edith Wharton and her tales of class mobility, or the lack thereof, in the society of the 1920s. Tarkington has addressed a similar situation here, a young girl who is just enough below the status of her peers to have a hard time keeping up and fitting in. Her mother is a disagreeable creature and her father doesn’t seem to understand the ramifications or difficulties of the position Alice is in. For him, she is his lovely daughter, why would anyone mistreat her; wou ...more
Jun 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Winner of the 1922 Pulitzer Prize, this satire of social manners and class climbing tells of the Adams family, a middle-class working couple with two late-teen or twenty-something children, Alice and Walter. Alice tries hard to ingratiate herself into the higher echelons of the town’s society, but is repeatedly rebuffed. Browbeaten by his wife, the elder Adams finally decides to go into business for himself, leaving his long-time employer to whom he is pathetically loyal. This sets into motion b ...more
Aug 19, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little dated and racially insensitive, but an interesting bit of social history. The industrial boom that followed WWI brought economic growth but left some behind, especially those whose skills did not match the needs of the growth industries. In an odd way, a feminist book, in that our heroine's sad fate may be redeeemed through economic independence -- freeing her from the tyrrany of courtship rituals where economic status undermines her. There wasn't a single major character whom I found a ...more
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alice Adams is my least favorite Booth Tarkington. It is four stars, mostly for the clever, low speed turn around ending. Tarkington continues to remind us that: “the familiar coating of smoke and grime... Yet here was not fault of housewifery; the curse could not be lifted, as the ingrained smudges permanent on the once white woodwork proved. The grime was perpetually renewed; scrubbing only ground it in.” is also the soot of wealth. So maybe 3.5 stars but rounded up because of the plot rather ...more
Jennifer Ochoa
Really enjoyed this 1921 Pulitzer Prize winning novel about the dangers of social-climbing and ambition without merit. The pacing of this book was excellent. I finished it rather quickly because I just couldn't put it down.

The character of Alice Adams could have been one-dimensional--and honestly I made the mistake of judging her as just that in the first few pages--but Tarkington slowly unfurls her complex, and sometimes sympathetic, personality in such a way that I found myself actually likin
Jun 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulitzer
Well, it's hard to say with this one. I didn't think it was any good, but it was very readable, even though it is 100 years old. I appreciate that, and breezing through some of these dud Pulitzers is such a nice option compared to the ones where I hated every minute. But again, this was a weak novel, the mother character is insufferable, the anti-heroine is pretty nearly insufferable, and Mr. Tarkington is very, very bad at writing dialogue. There was one strong scene, which was not only much hi ...more
Some reviewers have removed stars on "Alice Adams" because of racist remarks and depiction of African Americans. While I agree that those portions were difficult to read and were, frankly, cringe-inducing, they were a pretty accurate portrait of how many white Americans viewed some of their neighbors in the 1920s.

For me, the book didn't seem Pulitzer- or 5-star-worthy because the moral was driven home too forcefully. It's hard to believe that anyone acted as hysterical as Mrs. Adams, as false a
Apr 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sarah Parker, Jeanne O'Connor
I loved Alice. She is a heroine to be remembered. The ending of the book was so powerful. I admired Alice's courage and her willingness to face reality, take responsibility for her life and move forward. Booth Tarkington examined his characters choices and the ethical consequences. He exposes the shallowness of the well to do when they think their money, clothes, business success make them better than others less fortunate. He also reveals a desperation in those trying to climb the ladder to acc ...more
Roberta Lehrman
Dec 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was on my list of Pulitzer Prize winners and I never read anything by Booth Tarkington before. I liked it, and found it much like one of those 1950s movies. It is an interesting reflection of its times, and certainly shows that mother doesn't always know what's best.
Interesting, though basically insubstantial in the end. The real villain of the book, it seems to me, is Mrs Adams, who is silly and shallow, whose values are wrong in every point, who makes everything worse, who is manipulative and selfish (under the guise of maternal devotion), who never really learns from her mistakes. Settling the blame on her in this way rather loads the deck, it seems to me. The real culprit is much bigger, an entire culture whose values are seriously askew, but Tarkington ...more
Daniel Villines
Nov 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The quality of life for the typical laborer and his family at the turn of the 20th Century was filled with hardship and strife. The middle class were a select few at this point in history and for the most part, the population consisted of those with wealth and those without much of anything beyond the subsistence provided by their work. By the middle of this same century, unions and government had affected remarkable changes in the structure of society: the unskilled laborer was largely able to ...more
Sep 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
This book was the Pulitzer Prize winner in 1922 and although the language is dated and definitely not politically correct the story itself stands the test of time. I could imagine Alice living in modern times and trying to make her life come out right exactly in the same ways Alice did then, although the customs of dating/relationships have were much more constrained than they are today.
Alice's family hasn't kept up successfully or financially with the better families in their town, families who
Scott Cox
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote of Booth Tarkington: "It is a pity that the man who writes better prose than any other living American was brought up in a generation that considered it a crime to tell the truth" (1922 review of “Gentle Julia”). I cannot fully critique Fitzgerald's assessment, however I find it interesting that the novel "Alice Adams" is all about telling the truth. At one point Alice Adams laments, "But why had it been her instinct to show him an Alice Adams who didn't exist? . . . Wh ...more
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, hoopla
Certainly dated in social and racial terms, but a good picture of progress in a young woman’s path to maturity.
Joyce Lagow
Apr 20, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
Alice Adams is a morality tale about a socially ambitious young woman and her family in a Midwestern city. The family is middle-class, and sliding down in the economic scale. The father has worked in the same job for 20 years and is content. The mother, ambitious for her children, bitterly blames the father for not having made more of himself, for not thinking of his children s social futures and therefore not having any gumption to do better. Her entire life is focused on her children, especial ...more
I find that anytime I am reading a novel by an author I have never previously read I begin reading about the author partway through the novel. I think I am trying to understand the context around the novel. When it was written and the time it was set in are important as is who the story is written by. Sometimes understanding the author adds more depth to the story, and sometimes is doesn’t.

Booth Tarkington won a couple of major awards for his work. Alice Adams won him the Pulitzer Prize. His nov
Jun 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, audio-book
When I started listening to this book, my mother was alive and by the time I finished the book my mother had died. Any review seems unfair. Especially one that says: I loved the way this book started and progressed and I was very disappointed by the ending which seemed to leave too many story arcs unfinished. I was left feeling sad and empty and cheated. I wanted more story and I wanted a more fully fleshed out ending. At the same time, I understand what Tarkington was trying to achieve and what ...more
Eva Seyler
Sep 12, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, fiction, humour-lame
I hated the movie with the burning passion of 999 burning suns. Kate or no Kate. Decided to see if the book was any better, and it really was not. Few things are more annoying to me than people who pretend to be something they are not, lying through their teeth, superficial, silly creatures. Mother was the worst offender: nagging, shallow, and... nagging. In the end it seemed that Alice got her act together, though I am not so sure about the mother. At any rate, this was a terribly irritating re ...more
One dictionary definition of a tragedy states that the main character, usually a person of importance and outstanding personal qualities, falls to disaster through the combination of a personal failing and circumstances with which he or she cannot deal. In that sense the book Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington is an American tragedy. Pride, an inability to be content with the good things in one's own life, avarice, and social striving all contrive to cause strife and humiliation in one middle class ...more
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dostoyevsky was wrong. It's not just happy families that are alike. Unhappy families are all alike, too. Pent-up resentments, lack of communication, unrealistic expectations: it's all masterfully dissected here in this painful portrait of a family in free fall. Tarkington moves easily from descriptions of the coarseness of fast-growing midwestern towns to the inner feelings of a would-be debutante who is forced by circumstances to grow up, and he does both with a wickedly fine etching needle. Wh ...more
This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1922. I liked the writing style of Booth Tarkington. The story about the life of Alice Adams was a page turner and illustrated the things we all struggle with in life. Even though this book was written almost 100 years ago the story translates to current day. I give this book 5 stars.
Apr 30, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Closer to 1.5 but yikes. No one seems to learn anything at the end, and everyone screwing over Virgil gets away with it, with the exception of the title character who (DUN DUN DUNNNNNN) has to go to business school?! I haven't even gotten to the gross African American stereotypes and racial slurs bandied about that either have too much or too little to do with the plot. Screw this book.
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I felt every emotion of the protagonists. Beautifully written and deserving of the Pulitzer it earned.
Lee Anne
Nov 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're a fan of Sinclair Lewis or Willa Cather, I urge you to check out Booth Tarkington, if you haven't before. Are there fans of Sinclair Lewis or Willa Cather?

This small-town, Mid-Western family drama is so painful I winced through the climactic dinner party scene. It's as if all the characters, Alice, a young girl who, due to her poor financial status and desperate flirtation, finds herself in danger of becoming an old maid; Alice's father Virgil, sickly, old and past his prime at work a
Oct 12, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My colleague, Stephanie Bower, who is writing (or wrote?) a book on the rise of Louisville in the late 1800s and early 1900s gave me this book. She told me she could not read it because she knew it wouldn't end well. Boy - you can tell almost immediately things will not turn out well for Alice.

Alice has upper class pretentions but lives in a lower middle class family. Her main goal is to marry well, and that is never a good thing in an early 1900s book. It's so darn annoying to see her blunder
I can't believe this won a Pulitzer.

This is not a deep read. The descriptions of black people and in working people in general are crude.

Alice Adams in a young 20-something. She (and her mother) desperately want her to land a good (read: wealthy and/or important) husband. But since she was 16, fewer and fewer young men have come to call. She's grasping, and they are now looking for wives, not girls. And Alice's father is a department head. He's not a business owner, he's not wealthy. They have
I have conquered number four on the Pulitzer list!

Alice Adams is certainly dated, particularly surrounding the language and characterization of the peripheral African American characters in the book. The title character is a woman on the cusp of the upper class; her father has toiled away in a job with little prospects for significant advancement while his nagging wife reminds him constantly about the material comforts they owe Alice in order for her to land a husband. Sound familiar? It certain
Miles Smith
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tarkington' versatility is on full display in this Pulitzer winning novel. It's entirely different from his other great work, the Magnificent Ambersons. This work explores the social dynamics that continue to typify American life into the 21st-century. Alice Adams is a more explicitly religious novel than Tarkington other works. What it lacks subtlety it makes up for in moral and social clarity. Another transcendently marvelous work but one of the United States' greatest and perhaps most underap ...more
Apr 26, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are racially insensitive parts of this book.

It's a fun read despite that, and actually reminds me quite a bit of Custom of the Country. Social climbers are shamed.

It's funny looking back, I'm realizing how often the author tells us what a likeable character Alice Adams is. And we don't often actually see how likeable she is.

The last several books I've read seem to have the same goal: to secure a husband. The book often includes or alludes to the misery that might accompany the husband you
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Tackling the Puli...: Alice Adams (Booth Tarkington; 1922) 17 59 May 11, 2017 09:55AM  

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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.
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“As with husbands and wives, so with many fathers and daughters, and so with some sons and mothers: the man will himself be cross in public and think nothing of it, nor will he greatly mind a little crossness on the part of the woman; but let her show agitation before any spectator, he is instantly reduced to a coward's slavery. Women understand that ancient weakness, of course; for it is one of their most important means of defense, but can be used ignobly.” 3 likes
“...I suppose about the only good in pretending is the fun we get out of fooling ourselves that we fool somebody.” 2 likes
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