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The Cracked Looking-Glass

3.07  ·  Rating details ·  180 ratings  ·  20 reviews
'She only wished to prove to herself she was once more on a train going somewhere'

A passionate, unfulfilled woman considers her life and her marriage in this moving novella by one of America's finest short story writers.

Penguin Modern: fifty new books celebrating the pioneering spirit of the iconic Penguin Modern Classics series, with each one offering a concentrated hit o
Paperback, 64 pages
Published February 22nd 2018 by Penguin Classics
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Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Beautifully done story about a woman married to a much older man, who finds herself discontent with her life as he begins to show unwelcome signs of his age. Rosaleen thinks about her past, younger men who still admire her, and the disadvantages of being married to someone who is no longer the virile and strong man she married.

Porter does a marvelous job of imagining both sides of this situation and resolves it in a way that I found most satisfying. It reads like a novel more than a short story,
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
A peculiar little story, decidedly unimpressive in both its writing style and the plot (there isn't much of one really), but it managed to utterly charm me. The psychological precision, the tender portrayal of old age, the realism of Porter's characters all came together to create a well-rounded, believable, emotional slice of life story. You might happen not to, but I loved it.
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
The thirty-seventh book on the Penguin Moderns list, The Cracked Looking-Glass by American author Katherine Anne Porter, was one which I was particularly intrigued by.  In this story, which was first published in 1922, 'a passionately unfulfilled woman considers her life and her marriage'.  This woman is named Rosaleen; she has been married to Dennis, thirty years her senior, for over two decades, and the pair live on a farm in rural Connecticut.

I particularly enjoyed the opening scenes of the s
Dane Cobain
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is a weird one because while I did enjoy reading it, I can’t think of anything in particular to highlight. The best parts were just little lines of dialogue, but the stories were decent as well.

Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: penguin-modern
Well that was disappointing, a well written book of nothing. A young girl marries a man thirty years older than herself, moans and whines about it until the end.

If Katherine Porter is considered one of America's finest short-story writers, then please, don't let me read the bad ones.
Moumita Roy
May 04, 2019 rated it liked it
The book started with thrill but as the plot goes up the story becomes lucid. Lots of extra pulling of the situation . I don't want to recommend this .
John Naylor
Apr 16, 2020 rated it liked it
A short novella in a series that is great for introducing readers to new (and old) authors in bite-sized chunks.

This does convey a lot in a few pages. You near enough get to read about an entire life (up the the present when it was written.) There is no real plot or progression but it does evoke a sense of belonging and how a character doesn't feel like they do.

3 stars. Worth a look but also nothing groundbreaking here.
Raluca Arghiroiu
Jun 27, 2018 rated it liked it
(RO & EN review)

De fiecare dată când se privește în oglinda crăpată, Rosaleen vede o femeie neîmplinită.

Deși pare că anii nu au trecut peste chipul ei, imaginea soțului mai mare cu 30 de ani scoate la iveală frustrările latente ale lui Rosaleen.

Părăsirea locului natal o face să îi privească pe cei din jurul ei ca pe niște străini, uitând că și ea este, la rându-i, o străină. Căutând să ofere cuiva dragostea ce-ar fi fost destinată fiului său mort, personajul feminin lasă loc unor interpretări
May 22, 2018 rated it liked it
A powerfully atmospheric marital portrait of an aging husband and his much younger wife. The domestic parts of it were wonderful, the wife's regrets she's working so hard not to think through, her realisation of what her life must look like reflected in the eyes of her neighbours, but also the husband's thoughts on his marriage and his utterly unquestioning acceptance of their respective roles - these were fascinating to read from a modern perspective. There is a substantial dose of racism and x ...more
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Quick and classic. Nothing much happens other than a short trip to the city, but Porter's evocation of an ageing couple's quiet life is riveting. There's a certain dose of tenderness for the characters' flaws, especially Rosaleen, who is something of a dithering, lying, racist heap of vanity. Porter never excuses them, just mocks them the way you'd mock your own relatives.

The prose is finely chiselled and at the end of the read, you'll feel like you've just visited your strange country great au
Stephen Toman
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful wee book. One of those “short novels” that offers a snapshot of an entire life, enough detail for you to fill in the gaps yourself (I’ll take that any day over an over descriptive tome). Subtly brilliant writing — dialogue, free indirect speech, and a third person narrator who is not quite able to keep their opinions to themselves. Sort of a precursor to what Denis Johnson did years later in Train Dreams.
Jun 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Reasonably interesting story of a couple with a large age gap who hit a slightly rocky patch. Written in an Irish brogue that sings through the page, this feels very authentically voiced , even if the story lacks a little zing in the plot.
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great story!! It’s easy to miss all the little details and symbols in this book. It has to be read very carefully in order to be able to make sense out of it. Nevertheless, very interesting.
May 20, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Feel kind of silly DNFing something this short, but this was boring and confusing.
Grace Backler
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
My least favourite of the Penguin Modern series that I have read, I was not intrigued and found it to be slightly confusing.
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was kinda entertaining.
Katherine  Katsanou
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Porter hid a bunch of messages between the words regarding life, dreams, illusions about the world, marriage and how you change with the person beside you, and you should be the one to uncover them by reading this captivating novel.
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Cracked Looking Glass by Katherine Anne Porter

Another version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:


- What is the significance of the title?
- I was thinking about that.

A simple answer would just mention the Cracked Looking Glass that the heroine wants to change.

- But isn't this a metaphor?
- Perhaps Rosaleen, the main character sees the world

- Through A Glass Darkly,
Like in the famed Scandinavian masterpiece.

From the start, we le
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Oct 01, 2019
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Apr 28, 2020
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Katherine Anne Porter was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist, essayist, short story writer, novelist, and political activist. She is known for her penetrating insight; her works deal with dark themes such as betrayal, death and the origin of human evil.
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