The Grandmothers: A Family Portrait

Overview

Glenway Wescott?s poignant story of nineteenth-century Wisconsin was first published in 1927 as the winner of the prestigious Harper Prize. Like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, Wescott left the Midwest behind to live as a writer in 1920s Paris. In this novel, based on Wescott?s own life and family, the young Alwyn Tower leaves Wisconsin to travel in Europe, but finds himself haunted by a family of long-dead spirits?his grandparents and great-uncles and aunts, a generation whose young adulthood was ...

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Overview

Glenway Wescott’s poignant story of nineteenth-century Wisconsin was first published in 1927 as the winner of the prestigious Harper Prize. Like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, Wescott left the Midwest behind to live as a writer in 1920s Paris. In this novel, based on Wescott’s own life and family, the young Alwyn Tower leaves Wisconsin to travel in Europe, but finds himself haunted by a family of long-dead spirits—his grandparents and great-uncles and aunts, a generation whose young adulthood was shattered by the Civil War. Their images were preserved in fading family albums of daguerreotypes and in his own fragmented memories of stories told to him by his strong and enduring grandmothers. To disinter and finally lay to rest the family secrets that lingered insistently in his mind, Wescott writes, Alwyn was “obliged to live in imagination many lives already at an end.”
    The Grandmothers is the chronicle of Alwyn’s ancestors:  the bitter Henry Tower, who returned from Civil War battlefields to find his beautiful wife Serena lost in a fatal fever; Rose Hamilton, robust and eager, who yearned to leave the cabin of her bearded, squirrel-hunting brothers for the company of courteous Leander Tower; the boy-soldier Hilary Tower, whose worship of his brother made him desperate; fastidious Nancy Tower, whose love for her husband Jesse Davis could not overcome her disgust with the dirt under his fingernails; Ursula Duff, proud and silent, maligned among her neighbors by her venal husband; Alwyn’s parents, Ralph Tower and Marianne Duff, whose happiness is brought about only by the intervention of a determined spinster.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The Grandmothers is made out of thick, rich layers of human problems and personalities.  To read The Grandmothers is to be washed by waves of cleansing pity.”—Harry Salpeter, New York World, 1927

“Distinguished by sensitive interpretation . . . an epic of the pioneer family. . . . It was the grandmothers who made America, and the grandfathers submitted to them their own and the nation’s destiny.”—John Carter, New York Times Book Review, 1927

Booknews
A re-issue of Wescott's (1901-87) novel about the rural midwest, which garnered the Harper Prize when it was first published in 1927. It was also reprinted in 1950 and 1962, but here includes an introduction by Sargent Bush (English, U. of Wisconsin- Madison). Wescott was born and raised in Wisconsin where the novel is set, but wrote it in France where he was hanging out in Paris with the inter-war expatriot crowd. Paper edition (unseen), $15.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780299150242
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1996
  • Series: North Coast Books Series
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Glenway Wescott (1901-1987) was born in Kewaskum, Wisconsin. He was raised on a farm with an extended family, and The Grandmothers was his first major literary work. Among his other books are Goodbye, Wisconsin: The Apple of the Eye: and Pilgrim Hawk. Wescott’s journals from 1937 to 1955 were published by Farrar Strauss Giroux under the title Continual Lessons in 1990.

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