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The Gilded Age

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  1,143 ratings  ·  140 reviews
Arguably the first major American novel to satirize the political milieu of Washington, D.C. and the wild speculation schemes that exploded across the nation in the years that followed the Civil War, The Gilded Age gave this remarkable era its name. Co-written by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, this rollicking novel is rife with unscrupulous politicians, colorful ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published March 14th 2006 by Modern Library (first published 1873)
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Jim
Apr 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
I had always wanted to read this book, thinking it was a different sort of novel, perhaps from the point of the wealthy. Also, I had no idea that The Gilded Age was such a serious work. Oh, Mark Twain's humor comes across frequently, especially in the sections taking place in Washington. Unfortunately, Twain had a co-author: the book is signed by both Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warren, his friend.

Twain wrote the first eleven chapters, which were brilliant at times, but the story began to sag
...more
Collier Brown
Dec 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: home-inventory
I am a huge fan of those novels that satirize the American business man, and we have had a few masters of this genre within the last couple centuries--one of whom only recently passed away, Evan S. Connell. If you haven't read the Mr. and Mrs. Bridge novels, you must!!! They are masterpieces! I am thinking too of Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt, Sloan Wilson's The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit,and William Dean Howells's The Rise of Silas Lapham. All stand in the company of Mark Twain's The Gilded Age.

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Joe Soler
Mar 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book I assigned in my Modern Novels class because it set the stage for the period of self-proclaimed Modernity by exposing the seedy underbelly behind American "Progress." This is also Mark Twain's first novel which is clear because he has not quite mastered narrative and structure. The book drags a bit at times, but also displays the wit and incisive observation that made Twain a national treasure. The Gilded Age recounts the profound and quite recognizable corruption of the ...more
Christiane
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mark-twain
In this book Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner heap scathing criticism on the US congress, the justice system , the press and society in general..
It’s a tale of greed, corruption, influence peddling, lobbying, vote buying, seat buying, bribery, blackmail, hypocrisy, etc. etc. In this aspect this satire is as relevant today as it was then.

Another topic are the big dreams of vast and easy riches harboured by men disinclined to work for them, epitomized by the self-satisfied kind-hearted
...more
Dave
Oct 02, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, literature, fiction
It is not often that one gets to define an age, but that is precisely what Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner did with “The Gilded Age”. As Ward Just points out in his introduction, “The Gilded Age” is “the first (novel about Washington) of consequence in American writing.” The full title of the book is “The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today”, and it was published in 1873. Charles Warner was a good friend of Mark Twain and this is the only novel which Twain collaborated with another writer, and it ...more
Judi
Sigh. I shall ever be smitten by Mark Twain. If I were to have a fantasy dinner party he would definitely be a guest. (Along with Woody Allen) This book shattered any remaining illusions/delusions' I may have held regarding our noble democracy and dedication to ethics and principals in government - business. A very barbed satire indeed. Mark Twain's observations of The Gilded Age remain spot on today. I am off to crawl under my bed and wait for the Great Apocalypse. Trust no one.

Re-read
...more
Sotiris Karaiskos
In the United States, the era between the end of the civil war and the late 19th century was characterized by major social changes and rapid economic growth. Behind this facade, however, there were huge social problems and great political corruption. The writers describe this era with intense satirical mood and this description was so apt that the title of the book finally gave its name in this era. The truth, however, is that this fact gives value to this book and not its literary virtues.

Στις
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Wanda
Nov 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Another treasure discovered at a library buck-a-bag sale. The characters are well drawn, the prose is not turgid...and...not a lot has changed in human affairs in a century and a half.
Sure, it's about politics, corruption, greed, business speculation and credit bubbles, so a main point about reading it is seeing how little anything has changed. But everybody already knows that, human nature being what it is.
Nonetheless, one takes pause when stumbling across lines such as, "She did not know how
...more
Jane
Dec 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, classic
What's scary is how much the Washington, DC of this 1873 novel has in common with Washington, DC today!
Illiterate
Oct 13, 2018 rated it liked it
“A comprehensive up-to-date textbook on American government. Suitable for use in colleges and high schools.” Professor A. Puff, Racket University.
Mark Allen
Jan 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: con-artists and their victims
The Gilded Age lent its name to the period of U.S. History from Grant's presidencies through the turn of the century. I read this book through the lens of "been there, done that" during the web-boom of the late 90s, early oughts.

All of the usual suspects are there: smooth talking confidence artists running scams proposed as "market speculations" in the parlance of the times, corrupt Congresscritters, the vulture capitalists of Wall Street (and Sand Hill Road), and the shifty dealers who paddle
...more
Paul Frandano
Published in 1873, this is the novel that famously gave the era its name and then fell into the bin on “largely forgotten and seldom read.” In my opinion, however, The Gilded Age is significantly better than its earliest notices or its contemporary reputation. What I surmise will surprise readers today is the continuing relevance of the story, which is in parts a morality tale, a series of character studies that capture a range of relevant “types” who express various dimensions of the striving ...more
Kurtbg
Mar 30, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A lesser known co-authored work with Mark Twain that takes a satirical look at get-rich schemes and political shennagins in the mid to late 1800's. I thought the weaving of story, character, and value to humanity was balanced better than some later 20th century books, such as those written by Aldous Huxley and Thomas Mann. I could also be said to pave the way for Upton Sinclair's, The Jungle.

Even still, the book serves as representative (albeit skewed) critique of the times. Who would have
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Michael
Mark Twain's only collaborative novel written with C.D. Warner published in 1873. This book gave the name to the era in which it was written from about 1870 to 1900. It became synonomous with materialism, corruption, and graft in public life and particularly in Washington.
Not Twain's best novel but good novel nonetheless.
Roberta
Mar 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is hard to imagine that a political story could provide so many laugh-out-loud moments. Having just completed this book, I now cannot imagine anyone who has despised Washington and its politicians more than Mark Twain! His descriptions of the corruption were hysterical (to me) in their full-frontal assault! Based on his opinion, it is difficult to imagine that he was not thrown out of the country … by the politicians that he so thoroughly lambasted! Too funny!

Of course, there were other
...more
Marty Reeder
Jul 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
In this my year of Mark Twain, I am starting to work down the line into books of his that are less-well-known, and The Gilded Age definitely fits that bill. It is most well known for its coining of a phrase that would mark an historical era, but if you would’ve asked me (or any American history teacher who uses the phrase multiple times each year) what the story was behind the title, I would’ve either shrugged or made up a convincing lie (you shouldn’t have asked me and put me in the position to ...more
Tam May
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Confession time - I am not a big fan of Twain's more famous works. I just could never get into them. I tried rereading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn recently and quit at the point where a bunch of teenage boys were agreeing to kill women and children because they wanted to become pirate and "that's what pirates do". Twain's brand of humor is sometimes absurdist, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, but often times very vicious and nasty (for some real-life examples of this, see The Bohemians: ...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Review title: Shockingly modern
Twain (and often-overlooked coauthor Charles Dudley Warner) subtitled this profound satire "A tale of today", and in its prescience it is profoundly and even shockingly modern. Real estate booms and busts, political corruption, energy exploration frauds, celebrity culture, celebrity criminal trials as "reality" entertainment--its all here, in powerful yet powerfully restrained Twainian 3-D. Perhaps it was Warner's influence (at the time of publication early in
...more
Barbara
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today is not one of Mark Twain’s more well-known books. It’s the only one he wrote with a collaborator, Charles Dudley Warner, who was also a friend and neighbor. The story goes that their wives challenged them “to write a better novel than what they were used to reading.”

But this book is distinctive for an additional reason: its name became applied to the era after Reconstruction until the 1900s. According to this site, “American economy grew at its fastest rate in
...more
Deborah
Jan 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
One morning, not so long ago, my slumber was interrupted by a voice from the clock radio, saying, "If you want to understand what's happening in China today, read The Gilded Age by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner."

My instinctual action upon hearing that fateful alarm was to silence it, and as a result, the connection between post-Civil War America and modern-day China is rather unclear to me. Perhaps the growing wealth and power of China is an illusion, just as the wealth and prominence of
...more
Ed
Sep 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-book
A good read. A dark satire of post-Civil War United States, where the American Dream isn't quite as reachable as it seems. It follows two groups: The Hawkins family and two young New England men, Philip and Henry. The Hawkins are an incredibly poor Tennessee family living off the promise of wealth from selling their property. Philip and Henry try to make their fortune at land speculation and prospecting for coal. The fulfillment of their promises are always just around the corner, but are always ...more
Scott
Nov 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Holding this back to become the last of Twain's novels to be read before being able say I've read them all was not a bad choice. Although the book had its moments, it was, overaa, a disappointing read. Hyped as being an expose of a corrupt time much like our own, the chapters with any exposing were very rare. Only one comes to mind. It was easy to tell which chapters were Twain's and which were written by his collaborator. The Warner chapters were almost without exception stilted and ...more
Adam
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
This books needs a good editor. There are elements of a good story here and the commentary on the politics of the time are somewhat enlightening, but Twain and his co-writer go off on tangents that neither progress the plot nor are very interesting. If you are a big Twain fan then by all means give it a shot; otherwise, you are in for a bit of a slog.
Matt

Picked up a souvenir copy at the surprisingly lovely and opulent Mark Twain house in CT. What a grand place for the man to write, argue, host, smoke, drink, and ruminate. Three cheers for affluent father in laws!
D.J. Sylvis
Apr 20, 2008 rated it it was ok
Gave up after 100 pages - just couldn't do it. Not one of his better books, in my opinion.
Erwin
Published in 1873 "The Gilded Age" is a blast from the past that features themes that could easily have been taken from todays headlines. Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner collaborated on this work that defined an age... "the gilded age" which is the period between the Civil War and 1900 in America.

This is a story about:
Corruption in Washington DC
Politicians gaining power and maintaining power at all costs
Investigations in Washington DC by committee after committee
Money talks... on all
...more
Jackie Gill
I RARELY give up on a book or movie. Once I start, no matter how terrible, I like to finish. HOWEVER, every now and then a special work comes along that puts up a fight so strong, that I even back down. I began reading The Gilded Age, liked it, continued, and hated it. I Continued and liked it again. I Continued and realized I had no idea what I had just been reading. And so on...

At some point along the way, I decided to read up on this book. I wanted to figure out what it was supposed to be
...more
Lewis Millholland
Sep 26, 2019 rated it did not like it
Someone -- a politician, for some reason -- said if he had one wish it'd be to un-read "Huckleberry Finn" so that he could relive the experience of reading it for the first time. That book, along with "Tom Sawyer," took on a cult-like status in my home as a kid. Most of our books were cheap beach-read novels with simple binding and thin, cardboard covers. Those two Twain novels were combined in one hardback maroon anthology that included a built-in tassel for marking your page, like some Bibles ...more
David Goldman
The Gilded Age - A Story of Today

Twain's first novel is a colorful, damming portrait of post-civil war America. A country whose guiding principle is falseness. Businesses are valued based on speculation, rumor, and appearance (Col. Sellers business plans that based on selling ideas that can’t happen, the value of the Tennessee land based on the scene to get Congress to pay). Politicians are bought and sold, and actual motives are covered by high sounding moral causes (the scheme to sell the
...more
Ajay Venkitaraman
The book talks about the post Civil War decades in America, which has been termed as 'the Gilded Age', which was the age of large speculations and most of them unfulfilled ones. The sad part is that the book is also one such unfulfilled speculation, as it promised to be so much more. There are many good things about this book, which includes a good plot, decent characterization, intermittently stunning dialogues and partially cutting philosophy and half-vivid descriptions. The issue is that all ...more
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Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), called "the Great American Novel", and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876).

Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which would later provide the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. He apprenticed with a printer. He also
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“It is a time when one’s spirit is subdued and sad, one knows not why; when the past seems a storm-swept desolation, life a vanity and a burden, and the future but a way to death. It is a time when one is filled with vague longings; when one dreams of flight to peaceful islands in the remote solitudes of the sea, or folds his hands and says, What is the use of struggling, and toiling and worrying any more? let us give it all up.” 21 likes
“A woman's intuition is better than a man's. Nobody knows anything, really, you know, and a woman can guess a good deal nearer than a man.” 9 likes
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