Ensiform's Reviews > The Magnificent Ambersons

The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
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's review
Jul 12, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction

The titular family is the most prosperous and powerful in town at the turn of the century. Young George Amberson Minafer, the patriarch’s grandson, is spoiled terribly by mother Isabel. Growing up arrogant, sure of his own worth and position, and totally oblivious to the lives of others, George falls in love with Lucy Morgan, a young though sensible debutant. But there is a long history between George’s mother and Lucy’s father, of which George is unaware. As the town grows to a city, industry thrives, the Ambersons’ prestige and wealth wanes, and the Morgans – thanks to Lucy’s prescient father – grow prosperous. When George sabotages his widowed mother's growing affections for Lucy's father, life as he knows it comes to an end.

Winner of the 1919 Pulitzer Prize, it’s a compelling and enthralling novel. Tarkington somehow achieves the impossible, making George both a loathsome figure and one for whom it is possible to feel pity. I was a bit put off by the nature of the rather mystical, deus ex machina happy ending coming as it does after such unflinching realism, but somehow it does all seem fitting: only ghosts can help George.

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