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The New Men by C. P. Snow

The New Men (1954)

by C.P. Snow

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This story is told by the protagonist, Tony Grams, whose father brought the family to America in 1899; Tony was only eight years old. As an adult, Tony was employed by Ford Motor Company in Detroit, Michigan. In 1914, Ford introduced a Sociological Department which established rules of behavior for their employees. As encouragement, they dangled a $5 pay day rate to those employees who would allow themselves and their homes to be monitored by ‘investigators’. It enticed many as the $5 per day rate was more than double their normal pay rate at that time. As part of the Investigator’s duties, they’d check the cleanliness of the home; their children’s school attendance; and monitored their bank records. They taught English to migrants and even held a graduation of sorts in which the graduates appeared with their ‘old world’ clothing. After going into a simulation of an ‘American Melting Pot’, they’d reappear dressed in ‘American’ clothing – ‘new men.’ Tony became one of the Investigators.

The period of Tony’s story covers the time in America from 1914 to ca. 1920. The period covered the newness of automobiles and trolley cars; World War I and the Michigan ‘Polar Bear’ unit; racial bias against Jews and Blacks; Women’s Suffrage; prohibition; and the beginnings of the Roaring Twenties. I enjoyed how well the history was expressed. Jon Enfield, the author, said the following as part of his ‘Historical Note’.

“… although a great deal of The New Men is factually accurate (often painstakingly so) and intended to reflect accurately how people at the time thought and were able to think – and although I’m proud of that accuracy – I still didn’t hesitate to tweak, omit, or imagine details, events, and characters where doing so made the novel come to life.”

I was strongly pulled in at the beginning of this story as I have a keen interest in history, and this historic part of our nation was unknown to me. Though the subject matter is a great premise for a novel, the book does tend to slow a bit and transitions in scenes were not smoothly executed at times. I rated The New Men at 3 out of 5.

http://www.fictionzeal.com/new-men-making-men-made-america-jon-enfield/ ( )
  FictionZeal | Aug 31, 2014 |
Another re read. CP Snow is so very unfashionable these days, having been very much feted and celebrated at the time, that it is interesting to think why. He is one of very few serious writers who writes about the world of work and affairs - whose major focus is on the political rather than the personal. While the content of the political fades and ages (in this case the world of the atom bomb and nuclear treachery) the motivations and relationships are as real as they were then (the story of how Martin Eliot rises to the top of his research laboratory - and then refuses the prize is particularly fresh). Snow's writing is very limpid - a lack of imagery, a retiring first person single narrator, which sometimes lacks drive - perhaps at the time it was most appropriate for the sensation of the topic, but the novels perhaps suffer for it now...
1 vote otterley | Oct 25, 2009 |
1893 The New Men, by C. P. Snow (read 20 Dec 1984) This is the sixth volume in the series. It tells the story of men working in England on the atomic bomb, including Lewis Eliot's brother Martin. Much insight, much sensitive exploration of human feelings--all quite profound but not overly exciting or intriguing to a simplicist like me. Martin, on Aug 7, 1945, threatens to send a letter to the Times deploring Hiroshima. Isn't the reaction justified? But I never had it. I remember I was happy because I knew we'd win the war soon--back in those 1945 days when the war was the central event of our lives. ( )
  Schmerguls | Sep 6, 2008 |
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I heard the first rumour in the middle of an argument with my brother, when I was trying to persuade him not to marry, but it did not seem much more than a distraction.
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