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Great Son by Edna Ferber

Great Son (1944)

by Edna Ferber

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The history of Seattle is shown through the lives of one fictional family. The Melendy family matriarch was born as the boat came ashore in 1851, when there existed no state of Washington, no city of Seattle, no anything other than wilderness, water, and Indians. The story ends in 1944 as her great-grandson prepares to join the air force. In between, the Melendy family story reflects Seattle's ups and downs, social history, people and events:

Old Chief Seattle - … Why should I mourn at the untimely fate of my people? Tribe follows tribe, and nation follows nation, like the waves of the sea. It is the order of nature, and regret is useless.
The Klondike gold rush - which re-energizes the city.
The Mercer Girls – Civil War widows and spinsters, brought from New England by Asa Mercer, 12 of them in 1864 and 47 in 1866. (One hundred years later, the television program Here Come the Brides would be based on this event.)

I enjoyed Ms. Ferber's depictions of Seattle through the years. And I enjoyed her early characters, but people later in the story I thought were monotonously drug out. Overall, though, I found it an interesting way to see a city's history. ( )
  countrylife | Sep 22, 2011 |
This is a Penguin book published in New York. The colourful cover design portrays a bearded man holding his baby aloft.At first sight, the baby looks like Kenny in South Park.
  jon1lambert | Sep 27, 2009 |
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Douglas Bement
who loved Seattle.
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This book should have been a trilogy. Certainly it was intended as a tome, at least. But sometimes the vast dimensions of a people or a region prove so unsurmountable that a writer, in bafflement or defiance or defeat, decides to attack with a slingshot instead of a more proportionate and formidable weapon.
Chapter 1

There was too much of everything. But not for Vaughan Melendy. Himself of heroic stature, he fitted well into the gorgeous and spectacular setting that was the city of Seattle. Towering and snow-capped like the mountains that ringed the city, he seemed a part of it – as indeed he was. Born into this gargantuan northwest region of towering forests, limitless waters, vast mountains, fertile valleys, he himself blended into the lavish picture and was one with it. He loved it, he understood it. Breathing deep of its pine and salt air, a heady draught, he digested it like the benevolent giant he was.
Eastern visitors, accustomed to nature in cozier mood, were vaguely frightened by this colossal pageant. Certainly a recital of the region’s natural charms, no matter how restrained, always gave the effect of a Chamber of Commerce pamphlet gone mad.
..he took out his watch that was attached to the typical sourdough's watch chain festooned across his vest – twelve solid-gold nuggets strung on a gold chain and matching the single gold nugget that was his scarf pin. Anyone from Butte, Montana, to Vancouver, seeing this, would know him for a sourdough who had made his strike in the Klondike.
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