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Alice Adams

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  4,057 ratings  ·  297 reviews
Alice Adams, the daughter of middle-class parents, wants desperately to belong with the people of "high society" who live in her town. Ultimately, her ambitions are tempered by the realities of her situation, which she learns to accept with grace and style. Alice's resiliency of spirit makes her one of Booth Tarkington's most compelling characters. A fascinating story that ...more
Paperback, 268 pages
Published July 1st 2008 by Boomer Books (first published 1921)
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Average rating 3.63  · 
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 ·  4,057 ratings  ·  297 reviews

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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
Aug 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, 2020, pulitzer, classics
Having recently read Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Amberson's, I was constantly stuck by the similarities and differences between Alice Adams and TMA. Alice Adams is a very good read and kept me engaged from start to finish, but TMAs was a cut above in terms of a reading experience for me because it was a fun read, while Alice Adams more serious in tone. But that doesn't make it a lesser book. Each book has similar themes regarding the financial disintegration of a family, the importance of ...more
Dec 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who have read pride & prejudice and need to give their head a shake
Shelves: novels, 2013
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 simp
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
Jun 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
Alice Adams won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1922 making its author, Booth Tarkington a two-time winner. It is a satire of social manners and classism. We enter the story of a middle-class couple and their young adult (or teen?) children, Alice and Walter. Alice is trying to climb the social ranks in her town but is finding herself reject and rebuffed. She finally meets a wealthy man who seems to be looking to a future with her when Alice's father leaves his employer and begins a business. ...more
Dec 22, 2014 rated it liked it
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
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
Apr 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
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.
Oct 30, 2018 rated it liked it
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
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
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
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: hoopla, audiobook
Certainly dated in social and racial terms, but a good picture of progress in a young woman’s path to maturity.
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found myself alternately amused by, disgusted at and sorry for Alice Adams. Part of the aspects that bothered me about her character were due to the time and culture in which she lived (the book was published in 1921 so it was just after WW1). Alice is a romantic and somewhat silly 22-year-old girl whose whole goal in life (egged on by her snobbish and pushing mother) is to marry well - in her mind, in some romantic way swept off her feet by a handsome and rich man.

The Adams are a middle clas
Don Scaggs
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book, 2015
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
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
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 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
Why did it take me so long to read this book? That is the main question I have been asking myself since completing Alice Adams. Was the dialogue difficult? Was the language unfamiliar and therefore hard to understand? Was the length of the book daunting? No, no, and no. Then why did it take me so long to get through it? Over a month? Winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1922, the book evidently has merit.

The elements of the novel should have made it an interesting read: A lonely, somewhat
Booth Tarkington's second Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Alice Adams is again a novel that explores class and morality. The novel follows the Adams family as they hatch a scheme to elevate themselves into the upper echelons of local society and as one would imagine it fails spectacularly. Alice Adams reads as a morality tale, emphasizing that when the character's deeds are less than honest they will be punished ten fold for their efforts.

I didn't mind the novel, to be honest Tarkington's writing
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
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Oct 19, 2019 rated it liked it
A sweet and charming story about a young woman, Alice Adams, who longs to fit in and achieve a higher social status than the one she has been given based on her parents' means and ambitions. Set just after World War I, Alice is part of a lower-income white, Midwestern household with a father who feels settled and lacks any gumption to better himself or improve his family's station.

Despite Alice's desire, she never comes off as shallow or banal, merely earnest and rather self-aware. Enter Arthur
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
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Tackling the Puli...: Alice Adams (Booth Tarkington; 1922) 17 60 May 11, 2017 09:55AM  

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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.

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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
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