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The Late George Apley (1937)

by John P. Marquand

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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601830,592 (3.65)22
A modern classic restored to print -- the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that charts the diminishing fortunes of a distinguished Boston family in the early years of the 20th century. Sweeping us into the inner sanctum of Boston society, into the Beacon Hill town houses and exclusive private clubs where only the city's wealthiest and most powerful congregate, the novel gives us -- through the story of one family and its patriarch, the recently deceased George Apley -- the portrait of an entire society in transition. Gently satirical and rich with drama, the novel moves from the Gilded Age to the Great Depression as it projects George Apley's world -- and subtly reveals a life in which success and accomplishment mask disappointment and regret, a life of extreme and enviable privilege that is nonetheless an imperfect life.… (more)
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» See also 22 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
I dunno, Marquand won a Pulitzer prize for this. I figured that meant it would be good. But I found it tedious and uninteresting. Somehow, reading about privileged, rich Boston elites who think they're just plain folks is a bit sick making. I think that's likely the point of the book, but I'm not not willing to finish so as to find out. I got through 18% and then cried, "Give!"

I've read a half dozen other Marquand books, all in the Mr. Moto series, and thought they were all good and well enough written. This not so much. It didn't help that the kindle version I had for this book was egregiously proof read. Oodles of errors in typography and layout. I know that creating eBooks is difficult, but why not make a half-hearted effort? Gah! Anyway, I now know that one is not necessarily in for a GoodRead merely because the book he's picked up won Pulitzer Prize.
( )
  lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
524. The Late George Apley: A Novel in the Form of a Memoir, by John P. Marquand (read 29 Oct 1957) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1938) This won the Pulitzer fiction prize for 1938 and I read it as I was on a drive to read all such winners--and I have continued to read all such winners to the present time. I finished it at St. Vincent's Hospital as I was waiting for our daughter Sandy to be born, so maybe I read it a bit distractedly. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jul 31, 2013 |
John Marquand was a successful magazine fiction writer when we wrote The Late George Apley in 1936. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for it and it is generally thought to be his best work.

The novel is written in the form of a memoir supposedly by a friend of the main character, George Apley, and based on letters written to and by Mr. Apley throughout his life (1866-1933). It is described as a satire on upperclass Boston life in those years but I think also provides an interesting description of that era and the changes that took place. I will also admit that I'm not particularly good at identifying satire except when I'm very familiar with the subject, so I'm sure I missed a lot in this book. Here is a sample I found amusing, however. It takes place a few years after George marries when he is bemoaning the arrival of the newly rich in Boston society.

"There is consolation that something of the old life still remains. Not all these newcomers, seeking to gain social prestige by the weight of new-found wealth, have always been immediately received. There are many out-of-town families who no one knows, although they have purchased neighboring estates and have lived on them each summer for over twenty years. In this connection there is an amusing, though significant story, connected with a Cleveland family which came to Mulberry Beach with the idea, presumably, of gaining some indirect social distinction by being members of this community. At the end of the summer, the head of the house was heard to remark that he had met everyone. Although he had heard much of Boston manners and cultivation, he asserted that he might as well have spent the summer in Cleveland, or some place worse. On being questioned further, it appeared that he and his family had made their acquaintances on the beach every afternoon! Coming from an inland city, they had not realized that beaches in the afternoon are customarily left open to the servants." ( )
  RebaRelishesReading | Jun 23, 2013 |
I've never been a huge fan of biographies. So it was to my extreme dismay (!) that I discovered The Late George Apley, winner of the 1938 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, was a fictionalized biography. Not to worry though, I ended up loving it!

The 'writer' (i.e. narrator) of this book is a man who was close friends with the late George Apley. When George dies, his children realize that they have never known him well, beyond the way they have known him as a father. They asked the writer to prepare a biography, which was based on his own knowledge of Mr. Apley as well as interviews with his friends and family, and correspondence to and from Mr. Apley.

The resulting story was actually pretty interesting. Apley grew up as the son of a powerful New England family who were very concerned with convention and maintaining their place in society. In his teens and throughout the first few years of his 20s, Apley rebelled against his family's desires for him. However, in the end, he married the woman he was supposed to, and not the one he loved.

As time went on, Apley had children of his own and attempted to raise them the same way he was raised, apparently forgetting that he'd realized the class system was bullshit. Only in his later years did he begin to question his actions, and inactions, and to remember that he'd once felt the rules of his class to be dull, pointless, and no way to live your life.

Of course, his children also rebelled against his archaic ways and thought him to be a bit silly. And of course, his own son eventually embraced his responsibilities to his family and gave up on his own dreams.

I enjoyed the use of letters and news clippings and found this story to be told in a fairly unique and compelling way. I would have liked to know something more about the narrator though. There were hints throughout that made me think there would be some great unveiling at the end and we'd discover that it was actually his worst enemy writing it, or something equally interesting. In the end though, all we know is that a close friend to his family narrated the story of George Apley. ( )
  agnesmack | Sep 24, 2011 |
I cannot believe that I have lived in Boston for almost half my life and not read this dellightful book. It is a wonderfully nuanced satire on the Boston Brahmin culture. What is sad is that George Apley, having resisted his father's attempts to immerse him in this culture of privilege, noblesse oblige, and prejudice against the Irish, nonetheless, imposes exactly these same strictures on his own son, all in the name of family and community responsibility as well as one's duty to one's ancestors. Like his own father,George Apley resists change, despairs of the wildness of the youth, and lives a life of privilege and conformity: clubs (mostly of the dry, intellectual sort), summer camps (on distant islands),, family dinners, and numerous board meetings. Saddest of all is his sense that he has accomplished nothing in his lifetime and the fact that he had stifled the one impulse that might have led to genuine happiness--falling in love with a girl from a lower socioeconomic class while in college. His one friend who seems to have found happiness left Boston and married a showgirl but is regarded as a pariah to all but George Apley. One learns of his life through letters, his own and those of his parents to him as well as those of his to his son. These letters and reminiscences have been collected by one of his most pompous and conservative friends who comments on them, always missing the point. The narrator is both unable and unwilling to see either George Apley or his son's restiveness and minor rebellions, but it is this voice that creates the satire of the novel. I was reminded while reading the novel of my beloved Bostonian father-in-law who was a gentler version of George Apley as well as my own Virginian father who epitomized WASP culture, though not the Boston Brahmin variety. As a result, I kept up a running dialogue with the novel, one of the first to so affect me. ( )
  flashflood42 | Jan 26, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John P. Marquandprimary authorall editionscalculated
Docktor, IrvIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A modern classic restored to print -- the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that charts the diminishing fortunes of a distinguished Boston family in the early years of the 20th century. Sweeping us into the inner sanctum of Boston society, into the Beacon Hill town houses and exclusive private clubs where only the city's wealthiest and most powerful congregate, the novel gives us -- through the story of one family and its patriarch, the recently deceased George Apley -- the portrait of an entire society in transition. Gently satirical and rich with drama, the novel moves from the Gilded Age to the Great Depression as it projects George Apley's world -- and subtly reveals a life in which success and accomplishment mask disappointment and regret, a life of extreme and enviable privilege that is nonetheless an imperfect life.

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