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Main Street

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3.76  ·  Rating details ·  22,680 ratings  ·  967 reviews
The provocative masterpiece

Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street is notable for shattering the uniquely American myth of the open, progressive-minded small town. Its incisive attack on the provincial mentality stunned a nation proud of its new prosperity and power.
Paperback, 480 pages
Published June 3rd 2008 by Signet (first published 1920)
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3.76  · 
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 ·  22,680 ratings  ·  967 reviews


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Paul Bryant
Jun 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
On page 25 I thought – this guy is brilliant.

On page 50 I thought – this guy is exhaustively brilliant.

On page 100 I thought – I’m exhausted.

On page 150 I thought – I’ll never get out of this novel alive.

On page 200 I thought – so who knew there could be so much DETAIL about every last possible aspect of one teensy Minnesotan town lodged inside the Tardis-like head of Sinclair Lewis?

On page 213 my eye fell upon this :

It’s the worst defeat of all. I’m beaten. By Main Street. I must go on. But I c
...more
Lori
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sinclair Lewis explores his love and hate of small midwestern American towns as women's fiction.
Luís C.
The action of this more than 400-page pavement takes place before and shortly after the First World War, in a small town in Minnesota called Gopher Prairie and where one might think that Sinclair Lewis has put a lot of his native background.
For his people and for Dr. William Kennicott when he describes it to Carol Milford, whom he met in St. Paul, Illinois, and whom he dreams of marrying, Gopher Prairie is the most beautiful city in the world. Deep America. A wide, deep city, cheerfully colored,
...more
Duane
This was Lewis first novel, published in 1920, and it was a huge success, both critically and commercially. It made him a rich man and launched a career that would include the Nobel Prize for literature in 1930. Lewis felt that Main Street should have won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 but was edged out by Edith Wharton's, The Age of Innocence. It so incensed Lewis that when he did win it in 1925 for Arrowsmith, he refused to accept the award.

Main Street was the first major novel that featured small
...more
Alex
Nov 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rth-lifetime, 2014
"A bomb to blow up smugness" is what one woman hopefully calls her child in Sinclair Lewis's broadside attack on mainstream America, and that's surely what this book is.

I didn't know a book can be quiet and bombastic at the same time, but Lewis has written it. It covers just over a decade in Carol Milford's life, as her dreams are repeatedly drowned. She comes to Main Street, America, with grand plans to mean something in a dimly socialist way. Main Street is having none of it.

Lewis has a messag
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BAM The Bibliomaniac
Classics Cleanup Challenge #11
Audio #159

I didn’t like all of the arguing. For some reason it really upset me.
Chrissie
I definitely liked this book and recommend it to others. There is so much to think about; it can be discussed from many different angles. So what are its topics? First of all, life in small towns versus life in cities. This is what the book is said to be about. Love is another theme. It is not a soppy love story though! Maturing, becoming an adult, figuring out how to live in a real world, not a world of only idealistic dreams. It is about growing up, not the teen years, but the years after that ...more
Kim
Aug 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle

I was dimly aware of Sinclair Lewis but completely unfamiliar with his work when I read John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley: In Search of America a couple of years ago. Steinbeck, who admired Lewis, wanted to find his way from St Paul to Sauk Centre, Lewis' Minnesota hometown and the town on which the fictional location of this novel, Gopher Prairie, is based. He recounts his conversation with a waitress in a diner who gave him directions to the town: "They got a sign up. I guess quite a few f
...more
Evan
Small-town America. Ah, the scent of pine. The musty ramshackle old hardware store.

But what is this? Something amiss in one of these romanticized burgs? Something dark and sinister?

"I never imagined something like this would happen in our town," says the half-toothless talking head on the six o'clock news about the murder, even though you've seen this very thing happen in small towns 10,000 times in your life on the six o'clock news.

Small-town America is supposed to be different somehow; supp
...more
Jay Schutt
Oct 26, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I read this many, many years ago and remember that I didn't like it at all. Boring.
Jeannine Mason
I can't properly rate this book, because I did not enjoy it (or finish it yet), but I appreciate the satire and how its "commentary" on small minded people still holds true today.

To me, Lewis didn't try to build deep, interesting characters, he built representations about everything that reeks in society. This is a book that says, "You think you can change the way people think? Well, follow me to Main Street, and we will see about that." He treated the protagonists and antagonists with the same
...more
Cindy
Mar 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those stuggling with life in a small town
Recommended to Cindy by: Sister
I had just moved to a small town in Minnesota - with the same aspirations as this classic charater of many years before me, yet my thoughts and run ins were very much the same 50 years later. It was a reminder that one fits or one doesn't fit but to spend your life trying to change the engrained to your likely only means you will spend your life in turmoil, in hopes others after you, long after you will find the place more to your liking. Shortly afterwards - I moved.
Irene
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in the second decade of the 20th century, this is a reflection on small town life and an exploration of the restrictions women face. A young, college educated woman who has lived and worked in St. Paul, marries a small town doctor and moves to a provincial town of 3,000 people. Her first impression is that the town is ugly, the people dull and the atmosphere clostrophobic. But with her experience of city life, a college education and a libral upbringing, she sets out to reform and modernize ...more
Leslie
This book went on too long for me -- I ended up losing interest in and patience with Carol. I felt like I should sympathize with her but didn't in fact do so.

Lloyd James was very good with the narration which did help me persevere through.
Anna
Jan 04, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Kept feeling like a disappoving old lady reading this book: "This young man writes very well, but I don't like his tone." Smug. Unutterably smug, and he doesn't seem to like or care about any of his characters, which makes the whole exercise rather cold. I suppose, ninety years later, the "small towns are narrow-minded and hypocritical" theme has been done to death, and Lewis deserves credit for pioneering the genre, but on the whole I didn't like it.
Ben Loory
actually kinda won me over at the end, once the main character actually, y'know, DID SOMETHING. but the first 200 or so pages of "small-town satire," which is just a buncha dad-bern idjits talkin' like this is some of the most annoying shit i've ever read in my life.

beyond comprehension that this guy won a nobel prize. though i guess english wasn't the jury's first language.
Briynne
Jan 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was intensely personal to me – so much so that I found myself closing the book so I could just stare at the wall and think at points. The plot concerns the struggles of a woman, Carol, against the strange omniscience and rigidity of a small Midwestern town. She is a city-girl who marries a country doctor and optimistically sets out for a new life on the prairie, circa World War I. Upon settling in, she realizes that her ideas for “improving” the town through the introduction of high cu ...more
Cass
The main character is me. Wow, she is blowing me away by her similarities, and I am both impressed with the ability to capture me in text, and embarrassed that the one literary character that represents me the most is so flawed.

I want to be Anne Elliot (or Elizabeth or Emma for that matter), or Menolly, or Hermione or Katniss (Erm, maybe not), heroines that are strong and without major flaws. Instead I am Carol Kennicott the most maddening main character I have ever met... and she is me to a tee
...more
Lisa
Sinclair Lewis was the first American to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930. The citation reads for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humour, new types of characters. His most well-known novels are Main Street (1920) and Babbit (1922).

Main Street ruffled more than a few feathers in small town America when it was first published in 1920, and I expect it has the same effect on some readers today, nearly a century later. Sinclair Lew
...more
seak
Mar 19, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Read this in high school, well it was a summer reading book and I remember hating it. I actually enjoyed a lot of my summer reading list including Watership Down, The Once and Future King, The Jungle, and others, but this one killed it for me.

Looking back, however, I'm pretty sure I missed something when I first read it, some joke that everyone got but me. I think I may have to revisit this one day and see how my more literate and well-read (and snobbish) self rates it.
Hadrian
Caustic satire of small-town life. Although some of the concepts in the book are invariably dated, the concept and the characters are still only too familiar, and the follies of small-town living are laid bare.
Anima
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"A breeze which had crossed a thousand miles of wheat-lands bellied her taffeta skirt in a line so graceful, so full of animation and moving beauty, that the heart of a chance watcher on the lower road tightened to wistfulness over her quality of suspended freedom. She lifted her arms, she leaned back against the wind, her skirt dipped and flared, a lock blew wild. A girl on a hilltop; credulous, plastic, young; drinking the air as she longed to drink life. The eternal aching comedy of expectant ...more
Simon Mcleish
Oct 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally published on my blog here in November 2000.

Main Street has been described as "one of the most merciless novels ever written". It is an apt description of this depiction of small town midwestern America in the early years of this century, but there is an important element in Lewis' writing which it does not convey.Lewis understands his subject through and through, and that makes what he has to say not just merciless but believable. He also doesn't just restrict his attack to provincial
...more
Max
Nov 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20th-century
Main Street is more of a social commentary than a novel. While not great art, it is thought provoking and offers a revealing historical perspective. It made me realize sadly just how persistent is the stagnation of the human spirit that afflicts so much of America.

Lewis straightforwardly tells his satiric story of life in Gopher Prairie Minnesota in which a city girl who marries a country doctor is constantly thwarted in her efforts to rise above the townspeople’s dreary existence. These passage
...more
Stefanie
Feb 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was really interested in the themes of this book. The novel is strikingly relevant even 90-something years after its publication. The protagonist, Carrie, struggles against falling into the rut of quiet, midwestern life while progressivism rages on in the bustling cities she once called home. I could sympathise with a lot of her feelings- the stagnancy and the dullness of the country compared to urban life. They didn't really have suburbs as we know them back in the 1910s, but I could relate t ...more
Will
Dec 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I used to travel occasionally across the state and visited some small towns where I thought, “This looks pretty nice… maybe not much going on…but, if you had not been previously spoiled by the trappings of “city” life (i.e. did not know better) it might be an enjoyable place to live.” Well…this book annihilated that little theory. I suppose I had it partially right in that you can’t move down to the farm after you’ve seen gay Paris (that’s a joke if you know where I live). But, more disconcertin ...more
Marian
Dec 31, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A satire isn't necessarily funny or lighthearted. Critical--yes. Pessimistic--yes. Main Street is just that book. The characters are ridiculed by the author and don't seem to improve their vices, or change their points of view from beginning to end. But sometimes who doesn't enjoy some sarcasm? I did.


Jan Notzon
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Carol Kennicott is a fish out of water in small-town America. Her arc is discovering that, as the big-city suffragette tells her, she should challenge one conformist law at a time.
Despite finding Sinclair Lewis to be a condescending snob, I believe him to be one extraordinary writer. The effete snobbery is the belief that small-town America is filled with petty, unimaginative, conformist boobs, who are in dire need of the sophistication of the metropolis and the old world. They are backbiting a
...more
Brett
Jul 25, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classy-fiction
As someone with a deep familiarity with small town rural life in the upper plains, this book should certainly have been appealing to me. The points that Lewis returns to over and over again--that these towns are full of narrow-minded, self-important fools--are undeniably true. Maybe it's because I grew up in such a town though, instead of being a transplant like the book's protagonist Carol, that I also feel a certain grudging respect and even love for these places.

Lewis' knives are also out fo
...more
Brit Cheung
I was plagued by Insomnia recently.Oh,this has nothing to do with thebook. what need to do isto write something down randomly To mitigate the guilty of wasting time.

The book is a would-be hardcover for me,I mean, still on the way transported here when I bought it online last month and to my dismay,I haven't got the slight idea where it was stranded for now. Ironicly, I felt relieved of its delayed delivery cause I am not quite poised to challenge the great odds that reading the book would exhaus
...more
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Bright Young Things: November 2015- Main Street by Sinclair Lewis 23 23 Nov 29, 2015 12:08PM  
Ending 5 38 Feb 01, 2014 12:39AM  

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638 followers
Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1930 "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of characters." His works are known for their insightful and critical views of American capitalism and materialism between the wars. He is also respected for his strong characterizations of modern working women. H.L. Mencken wrote of him, "[If] the ...more
“I think perhaps we want a more conscious life. We're tired of drudging and sleeping and dying. We're tired of seeing just a few people able to be individualists. We're tired of always deferring hope till the next generation. We're tired of hearing politicians and priests and cautious reformers... coax us, 'Be calm! Be patient! Wait! We have the plans for a Utopia already made; just wiser than you.' For ten thousand years they've said that. We want our Utopia now — and we're going to try our hands at it.” 57 likes
“They were staggered to learn that a real tangible person, living in Minnesota, and married to their own flesh-and-blood relation, could apparently believe that divorce may not always be immoral; that illegitimate children do not bear any special and guaranteed form of curse; that there are ethical authorities outside of the Hebrew Bible; that men have drunk wine yet not died in the gutter; that the capitalistic system of distribution and the Baptist wedding-ceremony were not known in the Garden of Eden; that mushrooms are as edible as corn-beef hash; that the word "dude" is no longer frequently used; that there are Ministers of the Gospel who accept evolution; that some persons of apparent intelligence and business ability do not always vote the Republican ticket straight; that it is not a universal custom to wear scratchy flannels next the skin in winter; that a violin is not inherently more immoral than a chapel organ; that some poets do not have long hair; and that Jews are not always peddlers or pants-makers.

"Where does she get all them theories?" marveled Uncle Whittier Smail; while Aunt Bessie inquired, "Do you suppose there's many folks got notions like hers? My! If there are," and her tone settled the fact that there were not, "I just don't know what the world's coming to!”
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