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Most Helpful Favorable Review
3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.
Thomas Wolfe's Master Work
The novel tells the life of the Gant family in a small mountain town in North Carolina. It is widely acknowledged that the town is Asheville, NC and that the book is a thinly disguised account of Wolfe's own life there.
The Gant family was made of Oliver and Eliza Gant and their children, Steve, Luke, the twins Ben and Grover, the girls Daisy and Helen, and the baby, Eugene. Eugene is the individual whose life most closely mimics Wolfe's own. The family is portrayed for the twenty years of Eugene's childhood and early manhood, as he grows up and learns that he must move on to achieve what he wants from life.
The daily lives of the Gant family are richly portrayed, each detail building upon the next to demonstrate daily life in the mountain region of North Carolina from 1900 to 1920. Oliver is a stone mason, Eliza becomes the owner of a boardinghouse. They both are so consumed with the thought of money and what it takes to make a living that they neglected the emotional lives of their children. The children are left to provide emotional support for each other, to force their way through life trying, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing to achieve their goals.
Education was a great good, although expensive and those who had the opportunity to get an education were reminded daily of their great fortune. Wolfe details the daily working life of laborers, of those revered in small towns such as lawyers, doctors and politicians. He covers the relationships between men and women, and those between the races. The first Great War and the iinfluenza epidemic are covered. The United States was changing and the Gant family is a representation of how the country changed over this time period.
This book is recommended for readers interested in knowing how daily life was in western North Carolina during the early years of the 19th century as the population moved from a rural to a city focus. It is intricately detailed and moves the reader through the daily life of this family and the constant questions of why we are here and what we are to do with our lives.
posted by sandiek on September 4, 2012Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Most Helpful Critical Review
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.
A few good lines...
posted by Anonymous on October 27, 2007Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 27, 2007
A few good lines...
Wolfe was gifted in prose, modeled his writing after great authors of his time, his prose apparently a priority over literary genius, which we think of as a gift of words exercised in the service of something huge, like compassion, truth, beauty or human potential¿something that uplifts or encourages, something larger than one¿s self. Except for the racism, which the author was ignorant of¿and we must keep in mind this was written about three quarters of a century ago¿this is an accomplished novel for its time. Many authors use the novel format to lament the cruel injustices that happened to them. His father, Oliver had just met his future wife¿s family. ¿And as they sat there in the hot little room with its warm odor of mellowing apples, the vast winds howled down from the hills, there was a roaring in the pines, remote and demented, the bare boughs clashed. And as they peeled, or pared, or whittled, their talk slid from its rude jocularity to death and burial: they drawled monotonously, with evil hunger, their gossip of destiny, and of men but newly lain in the earth.¿ This is American realism as it came to prominence between the World Wars, a movement that attempted to shake loose from the tradition. Look Homeward, Angel concerns the history of Eugene Gant, actually Wolfe himself, from a few years before his birth in North Carolina to his departure for graduate school at Harvard University. Learning to deal with an alcoholic father and warped mother, and older siblings, he explores the town from its wealthiest mansions to it most degraded poverty and racism, shows promise in school, reads incessantly and plots himself the drama king that is his life. He falls in love, attends college, and after struggling finds a place of prominence for himself there. Eugene's melodramatic account of his love for a boarder in his mother's hotel takes on Shakespearian quality. He comes home, loses a favorite brother to tuberculosis and discovers the comforts of alcohol himself. He confronts his family's collective idiosyncrasies and leaves heading North, harboring the conviction that no one has ever suffered like this before. Maybe he realized that his experiences are universal, but he has the rare ability to dramatize the story. ¿¿But , amid the fumbling march of races to extinction, the giant rhythms of the earth remained. The seasons passed in their majestic processionals, and germinal Spring returned forever on the land¿new crops, new men, new harvests, and new gods.¿ His descriptions are vivid and his sensuality overwhelming. This is the effect of his prose. Trish New, author of The Thrill of Hope, South State Street Journal, and Memory Flatlined.
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 22, 2012
This book would've been really good had the unnecessary parts been cut out....like about 200 pages. The author would go on and on about insignificant details. Found the relative parts of the book interesting though.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 23, 2009
Why exactly is this "the great American novel"?
I really wanted to love this book. I am from NC and understand and appreciate the conflict of having ideas bigger than the place one lives. I love his use of language. But it really lacks focus and true meaning. It was quite difficult to get past the baseness of his character. The sexism and racism that he unapologetically indulges himself in with no redemption.
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 9, 2010
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Posted July 2, 2011
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