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08 April 2012

The Magnificent Ambersons, Booth Tarkington

"At the age of nine, George Amberson Minafer, the Major's one grandchild, was a princely terror..."

Georgie Amberson Minafer, the spoiled only grandchild of a wealthy Midwest family, is alternately loathed and revered by nearly everyone in town. His beautiful face and privileged upbringing create an image that is difficult for people to resist, particularly people who are used to watching everything the Amberson family says and does. When Lucy Morgan arrives in town and enters the story, she too is captured by the magnificence of the Amberson family, and particularly by Georgie. But little do Georgie and Lucy know that their parents were also once in love.
Isabel Amberson, Georgie's mother, was the most sought-after girl in town. Eugene Morgan, Lucy's father, was the only young man who could capture Isabel's heart. Through a youthful misunderstanding the star-crossed lovers were parted, only to be reunited years later, now with children of their own. Will Eugene and Isabel be able to finish their love story with a happy ending? Or will Georgie, used to being worshipped by his mother, be unable to accept that his mother is a woman who may need some completion outside of serving her one and only adored son?
The Magnificent Ambersons is a story of unfulfilled love and the redemption of the human soul told against the backdrop of a changing world, a world in which old money and family prestige is rapidly being taken over by progress and industrialization. Written in 1918 and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1919, The Magnificent Ambersons still delivers a relative tale for today's audience that is facing a whole new set of socioeconomic pressures in an ever-changing world.

My thoughts:

The Magnificent Ambersons begins quaintly, the descriptions of the time evoking nostalgia in a Broad born one hundred years after those 'good-old-days' had long passed.  The truth embedded within Tarkington's vivid recounting had me chuckling out loud in more than a few spots. 

The story revolves around The Ambersons, a wealthy family from an age that bred 'gentlemen', an age that slowly perishes in the face of 'modern ideas and ideals', much to third generation George Amberson Minafer's chagrin.  I could not help but laugh at the stubborn resistance to change found in George, mostly because through his actions and feelings I re-discovered the wisdom of my grandmother's words. 
'The more things change, the more they stay the same.'
People still don't like change.  At least in my family.  Ha!
More so, I experienced George's deep felt frustration and sadness at seeing an entire way of life, a simpler existence, slipping away. 

Old money lived and believed in a certain moral code, a well-defined structure to society which began to crumble after the turn of the century and the genesis of the manufacturing age.  Changes in class, dress, and the spreading out of the populace as automobiles expanded man's environments changed our nation dramatically - changed the way we live forevermore.  This novel relates the eventual toll these changes effect on the Amberson family.

Well written, Tarkington employed just the right touches of nostalgia, affection, and humor to engross this Broad from the first page to the last.  I fell in love with his characters!  The stalwart Major, the lovable and carefree George Sr., the indulgent yet ever loving and tender Isabel, the spunk and pluckiness of Aunt Fanny - all pleased along with the characters' faults, too.  Most interesting were George Amberson Minafer and Lucy Morgan.  The budding relationship between these young people had twists and turns aplenty without ever being blatant.  It was more than refreshing.  The innocence in which lives were lived - the well of emotion and thoughtful contemplation revealed with sublime subtlety was wholly lovely to immerse myself in.

The exchange between Eugene Morgan and young George about how the automobile would change the face of the world was fantastic as the dire prediction -
'It may be that they (automobiles) will not add to the beauty of the world, nor to the life of men's souls.' -
rang more true than I'd care to admit. 

George Amberson Minafer represents the best and worst in all of us.  Dreadfully arrogant and full of his own self-importance, George surprised me with the depth of his sentiment toward Lucy, toward his mother.  He was a royal horse's ass in many ways, but he loved deeply and felt great affection for those who got inside his heart.
The scene where he confronts his actions toward his mother, honestly and genuinely, brought the tears up in my eyes, and I'm not sure that's ever happened to me before!

Georgie Minafer's enemies always wanted him to get his 'comeuppance', but sometimes life has a way of taking the worst circumstances and, from them, producing a man.

Story - ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣
Follow The Magnificent Ambersons: The Book Tour, hosted by Legacy Romance and The Vintage Reader.  Buy at Amazon.

This book was provided by Legacy Romance for review.  The opinions expressed are solely my own.
 - Moíra ♣

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