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A Woman of Means: A Novel by Peter Taylor

A Woman of Means: A Novel (1950)

by Peter Taylor

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1182157,380 (3.91)2
Gerald Dudley is an executive at a hardware company in St. Louis, living the quintessential bachelor life with his young son, Quint. He is also a man who aspires beyond his means and class. When Gerald meets the wealthy divorcée Ann Lauterbach and the two marry, life changes irrevocably for Quint. He enters a social world of private schools and debutante balls known to him only through his father's longings. As Quint's attachment to his stepmother and her "means" grows, her marriage to his father begins to crumble in small, subtle ways, which ultimately leads to larger, more devastating consequences.… (more)



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Peter Taylor is a Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction. Lovely story narrated by a boy 12-13 years old. His mother died when he was born and his father always has work but they move many times. Quint lives with his grandmother and cousins and other relatives in the country in Tennessee until his father meets and marries a wealthy woman in St. Louis. Quint is collected from his grandmother and finds his new family to be wonderful, including two older sisters. His stepmother is loving and treats him warmly like the boy she never had and wanted. He basks in her affectionate ways.

Quint's life is transformed and he feels safe but has never quite fit in among peers, who tease him about his long elegant name and his southern accent. And then his family life subtly and slowly unravels. The book is slim, easy to read, and quietly profound between the lines. ( )
  Rascalstar | Jan 21, 2017 |
Quint Dudley's mother died in childbirth. His father, Gerald, an ambitious hardware salesman, has dragged Quint from one place to another in search of better jobs and upward mobility. After having some success, Gerald marries a rich divorcee and they move into her house. Quint, now in middle school, experiences motherly affection for the first time and finds his place in a new school.

The good times cannot last, however, as Quint's father and stepmother both seem proud and stiff-necked about money, class, and other matters that Quint does not understand. Events proceed to a troubling finish.

I thought Quint was very well drawn, with his insecurities and dawning insights. Taylor makes excellent use of details to give us a vivid picture of Quint's experiences. His parents seem less well drawn, perhaps because we see the story through Quint's young eyes and he doesn't really see the adult world clearly. I didn't think we were well enough prepared for the story's finish; there had not been enough clues or indications that it was coming.

The novel is quite brief, perhaps another factor in the lack of foreshadowing. For the most part it is an enjoyable read, particularly Quint and his stepsisters. Taylor would go on to write finer novels, but this is an excellent first one. ( )
  Jim53 | Oct 4, 2008 |
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For Katherine Baird Taylor
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The girls kept diaries, but you never had a chance to read them.
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