Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington

Published: 1921

Genre: literary fiction

Length: 434 pages

Setting: it felt like a northeastern city, 1910s

Interest: It won a Pulitzer Prize

Summary: Alice Adams is a debutante but she seems to have lost her ability to attract the boys. She’s pretty enough and can flirt with the best of them, but her family’s situation means she can’t keep up with the Jones’ financially. Her father recently had a stroke but is now on the mend. Her mother is pushing her father to make a career change so he can support his family in the manner they wish to be (they have upper-class aspirations but only a middle-class income). It looks like Alice has finally found a beau in a newcomer to town, but it all goes south when her father takes the step to go into the glue business and gets into a row with his old employer. In the end, the family embraces its middle-class status.

Final thoughts: This type of book just isn’t written anymore. The core of the book is a girl trying to make her way in society and not succeeding very well. It feels very American, with money (and the lack thereof) at the heart of the story. Alice didn’t have any “background”, and that could be forgiven if she had money. But she has neither and she’s dropped by the “in” crowd and she doesn’t know what to do with herself in response. She attempts to lie it all away, but that fails miserably.

The one jarring part of the story was the treatment of blacks. Alice’s brother hands out with the “coloreds” and its seen as very odd and even socially damaging. Society has also outgrown many of the terms Tarkington uses to reference the blacks in the book. It definitely is a product of the times.

Title comes from: The main character

Reading challenges fulfilled: 13/100 in my Finally to 100 Challenge, a T in my Author Alphabet Challenge, and 4/12 in my Award Winning Challenge.

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!


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