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The Late George Apley

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  2,127 ratings  ·  119 reviews
A modern classic restored to print -- the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that charts the diminishing fortunes of a distinguished Boston family in the early years of the 20th century. Sweeping us into the inner sanctum of Boston society, into the Beacon Hill town houses and exclusive private clubs where only the city's wealthiest and most powerful congregate, the novel gives ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 9th 2004 by Back Bay Books (first published 1937)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
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 ·  2,127 ratings  ·  119 reviews

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Bill Kerwin
Apr 11, 2008 rated it really liked it

This winner of the 1938 Pulitzer prize for fiction is a gently satirical and sociologically savvy portrait of George Apley, a Boston Brahmin born in the years immediately after the American Civil War. He is rich and wellborn, the product of a haughty and insular culture, yet he wins the reader's admiration by growing--incrementally, authentically--into a man able to face the challenges of the 20th century.
Apr 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I tried to read this when I was in my twenties, thought it was the most boring thing I'd ever read. Now, in my eighties, I give it five stars. (Should be four and a half, but Goodreads doesn't seem to do things in halves) Does this book venerate the upper classes (esp Bostonian), or does it mock them? A little of each? I'd have to read more Marquand before I could check in on that. I laughed. Almost every page, I laughed. Surely this is an exercise in reading between the lines. And yet, the ...more
John P. Marquand's writing captured me right from the first page. His writing style read like a biography with the narrator being a close friend of the main character. The book is made up of letters by George Apley himself which are witty, humorous and sad. I really enjoyed the story. 🤗
Aug 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Boy, did this book deserve the Pulitzer Prize (late 1930s). It is a picture of Boston society in the early 1900s. George Apley is the patriarch of an old family. The book is a social satire and written to picture society in transition -- but I was very sympathetic to George, liking him very much. His sense of duty was greater than his 'love of life,' but I see that as rather noble. I saw a wealthy class, very exclusive and ingrown, but they looked out for each other and also provided for the ...more
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pulitzer
This was one of those flukes where I'm glad I hung in there, because I sure hated the first 50 (100?) pages. I definitely had it pegged as a waste-of-time Pulitzer. Instead, I found it a touching and sad exploration of how we can find ourselves becoming what we did not want to be, and the gradual yield to conformity. I still do not understand the reviews of 1937, which all rang with words like 'hilarious' and 'wickedly funny', because the satire here struck me as infinitely sad, but I guess they ...more
Mary Ronan Drew
Jul 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why doesn't the Library of America have a volume of John P Marquand novels? I remembered The Late George Apley as a very good book and this re-reading 50 years later confirms that. First-rate and not included in the definitive collection of American authors. That should be fixed.
Bryan "They call me the Doge"
The subtitle for THE LATE GEORGE APLEY is A NOVEL IN THE FORM OF A MEMOIR, and so, rather than a traditional, and likely less effective, approach, author John Marquand makes use of supposed correspondence between the main character and his family and of public records to tell the biography of George Apley, a member of Boston aristocracy and Beacon Hill resident. The unnamed narrator, a professed friend of George's, gives a eulogy at one of the many clubs that George had been a member ...more
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book is meant to have us question our values, confront our traditions, and reexamine conventional views in an effort to sort out that which is still good and challenge that which is, classist, racist, elitist, or simply ignorant. It does this by revealing the life of the late George Apley, a Bostonian at the turn of the 19th/20th century. George believed himself to be a good and responsible man, a leading citizen, a philanthropist, a dutiful husband, and father. Within this fiction (both ...more
Chris Gager
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now THIS is an old paperback(rescued of course) - 1944 - and in pretty good shape. Pocket Books' 258th selection and first printed in the same year. I'll start today/tonight.

Read the "intro" last night. This book is a novel masquerading as a biography/memoir.

Got into it a bit last night and I have to say that I like this book a lot. The overall tone is a bit detached and ... Bostonian, but there are plenty of chuckles and also a bit of abrupt sadness as well. It seems to be a spot-on accounting
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am reading The Late George Apley for a book club. Alas, this book club is somewhat dysfunctional. We don't meet very often, and when we do manage to meet, it is a frustrating exercise. We can't seem to get around to discussing the books because one member of the club blathers on about inane stuff. Blah blah blah. By the time we get around to meeting, I will probably have forgotten my impressions of this book and we won't talk about it much even when we do meet, so I'm going to record some ...more
Tracy Towley
Aug 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pulitzer
I've never been a huge fan of biographies. So it was to my extreme dismay (!) that I discovered The Late George Apley, winner of the 1938 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, was a fictionalized biography. Not to worry though, I ended up loving it!

The 'writer' (i.e. narrator) of this book is a man who was close friends with the late George Apley. When George dies, his children realize that they have never known him well, beyond the way they know him as a father. They asked the writer to prepare a
Mar 28, 2019 rated it liked it
John P. Marquand won the Pulitzer Prize for The Late George Apley in 1938. This novel is structured much different than most books I have read. The story is told about George Apley's life from his childhood in Boston's elite society to his death in 1933. The story is narrated by a close friend and told through a series of letters written by George or his family members. This is how you get to know George and the characters in the story. The book gives an interesting perspective of how, precious ...more
Sep 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Poor George Apley - part of him wants to follow his heart, and not care what the rest of the world thinks of his choices; unfortunately, a larger part of him feels safer - and more righteous - following the rules set down by the society he has grown up in - upper-class Boston at the end of the 19th century. In this very enclosed world, there's not much room for maneuvering, and George generally finds it more comfortable to just make the same choices his ancestors have made,all in the name of ...more
Jul 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Pretty much everyone.
Recommended to Tamara by: Pulitzer
Shelves: pulitzer-winners
This was a really good book. I loved the beginning,but as George got a little older, his snobbishness (which he and his friends defiantly refused to acknowledge, and to quote Shakespeare, they protested too much)was annoying and overwhelming. The "do what is best for the family" attitude and don't try to be different advice he gave to his children was amusing, even though it was annoying as well, but integral to the portrait of George Apley. Keeping all gossip in the closet (which according to ...more
Nov 01, 2010 rated it liked it
He dies in the end. Meanwhile, it made me feel like a voyeuristic Jew reading the life of a Bostonian aristocrat: I have always been faced from childhood by the obligation of convention, and all of these conventions have been made bu others, formed from the fabric of the past. In some way these have stepped in between me and life. I had to realize that they were designed to do just promote stability and inheritance.
Mar 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Constance and Melanie
This was on the staff pick table at the library, and since it was about Boston, I picked it up.

Can't tell you how much I enjoyed it. The portrait of the persons, place, and times were of great interest to me, and the prose was both accessible and erudite.

I will look for the author's other books.
Michael Thimsen
Jun 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was one of my top ten books of all time. I can't believe that this writer has mostly been forgotten. His sardonic wit and damning satirical viewpoint was remarkable. I feel like I have been the recipient of Mr. Apley's letters and I feel the same sort of pity that many characters in the book felt. It was brilliant. I loved it.
Sep 21, 2009 rated it it was ok
Why this ever won a Pulitzer I don't know. Humor so subtle and out of my sphere of reference as to pass right by this midwesterner. There was a movie made in the 1940's and the reviews of that are great -- I recommend renting it instead of reading the book.
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
We had to read this in high school. Everyone else hated it. I loved it.
Jan 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I tried reading this as a young man, many years ago. In discussing it with a friend, he suggested that since I was more mature, I might now enjoy it. He was right.
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
My copy is from the International Collectors Library, circa 1973, based on the 1937 manuscript and hard bound, 303 pages.

Bottom Line First: The late George Apley subtitled "A Novel in the Form of a Memoir," is a novel narrated by a longtime friend and local author Willing. It came as a surprise to me that this is considered a satire. There is at least one obviously funny chapter and throughout an under tone of drollery. If by satire you mean laugh out loud funny, this novel rarely made me smile.
Charles Inglin
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is a sort of time capsule in two senses. First, it's a wonderful example of a form of satire that's rarely seen anymore, subtle and leading the reader to conclusions rather than presenting them. The subject of the satire, the old core of Boston and New England society made up of the wealthy descendants of early settlers, was already fading by 1936, when the book was published.

The author frames the book as the work of a lifelong friend of the recently deceased George Apley, documenting
Aug 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Maybe 3.5. This is a classic novel, told mostly in letters, about an elite Bostonian man and his family, dating back to 1636 but mostly set during the span of George's life, from 1866-1933, with all the cultural, sexual, literary, political, and social changes occurring then.  Lots of noblesse oblige (taking care of the poor and giving them respect), the need to adhere to tradition and convention, the need to do one's duty rather than seek pleasure. George is often appalled and perplexed by the ...more
Gary Lindsay
Dec 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: pulitzer-winners
My project to read all the Pulitzer winners brought me to this book. The early Pulitzer especially seemed to have been awarded for fiction examining some significant aspect of American culture. Later winners have especially honored breakthroughs in style and form. This book is interesting in both these regards, but not an especially enjoyable read.
The book is unreliably narrated by the biographer of George Apley, a member of a wealthy and influential industrial family in Boston. (Both are
Apr 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
In many ways this book seems to the Boston Brahmin how Remains of the Day seems to the British aristocracy and the butlers that attended them. While perhaps more comic, ultimately this fictional biography told in letters reveals a sympathetic portrait of a man caught between old Boston and new Boston in the early 20th century. As a lover of Boston history, I loved how this book captured so many events and cultural institutions: the removal of American literature and publishing to New York, the ...more
Oct 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Intriguing but i must admit i didnt understand it all. Maybe because i am not from Boston and not an historian on upper class lifestyles at the turn of the century up to past WW1, there was much that i found confusing and uninteresting. But on the flip side, the details and intimacy with attitudes, expectations, and changes experienced by the main narrators were brilliant. The role of clubs in the lives of the well placed and the strong adherence to presentation were fascinating. The adaptation ...more
Alec Hastings
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
George Apley is one of the "minor classics" of the early 20th century. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1938 but has slipped into obscurity. For me, it was a fascinating glimpse into the world of the Boston Brahmins and the Yankees throughout New England who prospered from hard work and ingenuity. It is described as a satire and it does, indeed, point out the foibles and pretensions of these Yankees who descended from the Puritans and became captains of New England industry. It is gentle satire, ...more
Jul 31, 2019 rated it liked it
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Steven Leiva
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully rendered gentle satire, but not any less telling or focused for that. In this era where we are discovering, much to the surprise of many, that our country is more tribal than not -- or rather more fractured into tribes than we may have thought -- Marquand's view of the inner workings of what was once one of America's most powerful tribes: puritanical, old school, old money, old morals WASPs, certainly has insights to ponder. His portrayal of George Apley is both critical and ...more
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the story of the changing social and political surroundings of Boston over the life of George Apley, a man in the upper class, from 1866-1933. It is written in memoir form as one of his friends, Willing, collecting his letters and laying them out on a timeline after his death to try to give a view of Apley as a man. It really gave me a feeling of what the climate was like in Boston and New England during the time when my grandpa was a young child. Although the characters and events were ...more
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