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Paperback The Magnificent Ambersons Book

ISBN: 0253205468

ISBN13: 9780253205469

The Magnificent Ambersons

(Book #2 in the The Growth Trilogy Series)

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Book Overview

[FYI: Named one of the 100 Best Novels by the editors of the Modern Library; 7/20/98 New York Times, p. B1] "Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons is a delightful novel. In addition, it is a view of Indianapolis' evolution from a major marketing center to a great industrial city. It adds a new dimension to one's understanding of the coming of the Industrial Age to the State of Indiana." --Herman B Wells, Indiana University "With the tremendous...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A tack in the balloon

This magnificent, humorous and fanciful book -- a precurser to Gatsby -- is timeless in its central meaning: parents spoil their children and children eventually must learn to unspoil themselves.Set in the midwest around the turn of the century, Tarkington introduces the reader into a world ruled by the richest family in town: the Ambersons. A portrait of victorian excess, the Amberson's have everything and then more. Their house is the town's feudal castle. People on the street discuss their every move.Born into this world is Georgie Minafer, Tarkington's cartoon monster of spoiled and ego-ridden pomposity, who head is as swollen and vacuous as a balloon.Georgie not only possesses every material item he could ever desire: he also is surrounded by remarkble women: his stunning and angelic mother who would sacrifice anything for his happiness and his wise and beautiful girlfriend Lucy who loves him despite knowing better.Things change, the town becomes a city and absorbs the Amberson palace in a cloud of soot. One by one Georgie's protectors disapear and the magificence of the Amerbersons and everything he took for granted vaporizes like a dream. This leaves Georgie to ponder what he had, and those who knew him in the good days to observe from afar.Tarkington masterfully weaves humor, history and gripping emotion in this book. It remains a rewarding book after more than 80 years in print, largely because its meaning is eternal.

Intensely Readable

Who would have thought that a novel from 1918 would be such a page turner? Not to generalize, but there aren't many books pre-1920 or so that I've been unable to put down. Until "The Magnificent Ambersons."Covering a span of roughly 20 years in the lives and fortunes of the Amberson/Minafer family, Booth Tarkington uses the fall of the family from its privileged social standing as a symbol of the blurring distinction between classes that took place in the country's urban areas at the beginning of the 20th Century. The Ambersons live in a stately mansion, separated from the outside world by vast lawns and gates, and gradually watch their secluded neighborhood overrun by cheap apartment buildings, increased traffic and pollution. What Tarkington does, nearly 80 years before the actual phrase came into common usage, is address the problems associated with urban sprawl.The book has two of the most colorful characters ever put down on paper: Georgie Amberson Minafer, the spoiled brat protagonist who fights most fiercely to retain the family's position as one of the most distinguished in the city; and Aunt Fanny, the manipulative spinster who doesn't understand just how serious the consequences of her gossiping and meddling (to her merely distractions from the boredom and tedium of her life) can be.I surprisingly felt much sympathy for Georgie. He can be odious at times admittedly, and more than once you want to see him slapped silly, and at one point in the novel you honestly begin to wonder if perhaps he's mentally ill, so extreme are the measures to which he will go in the sake of what he thinks is protecting his mother's good name. But by the time the novel ended, I couldn't help being won over by him. He's got an overbearing personality, but I shared his opinion of the ugliness he sees sprouting up around him. His obsession with a time gone by springs from naivete, and as he grows over the course of the novel, he experiences a shift of priorities, as all adults do as they become adults.In many ways, Tarkington's novel is about dealing with maturity and the occassional disillusionment that can accompany it. There's a beautiful passage in which Georgie's uncle George (Georgie's namesake) explains that youth can never understand the triviality of the things it takes so seriously (status, passion, success) and will never be able to understand it until youth has become middle age. And Georgie's grandfather, responsible for the wealth of the family, realizes on his deathbed the ultimate uselessness of all the material goods he has acquired over a lifetime.If you would like to see a good film version as a companion piece to the novel, see the 1942 Orson Welles version rather than the A & E version from a few years ago. Welles' film is butchered and as a result tells only a very truncated version of the story, but it gets the tone just right, and Agnes Moorehead's dead-on portrayal of Fanny is one of cinema history's highlights. The A & E adapta

A magnificent book

"Magnificent" is the word to describe this book. Epic in scope, it follows the rise and fall of the Ambersons as the spoiled and arrogant George Minafer grows up. I enjoyed the somewhat melodramatic story and found many parallels between these times and the world of today. The plot is emotional and powerful, and it is easy to see why Orson Welles would have wanted so much to make it a film.What makes the book especially interesting, however, is Booth Tarkington's ability to understand and describe the changes going through America at the time. The setting is more than just a "character;" it dictates the circumstances of its inhabitants. It provides the foundation for the way of life they must live. This is not only a tale of George and his family falling from great heights, but also a record of how a small town grew into a city, how automobiles changed the landscape in which we live, how people were forced to adapt to this unsympathetic setting between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He writes mainly from George's point of view, so there is a romantic, nostalgic vision of how things once were, but Tarkington is not fooled into believing that technological and social change has not made some things better, just as he isn't fooled into thinking they haven't made some things worse. What the Ambersons saw as tragedy and loss, others saw as opportunity. I percieved no moral lesson or message; this book is about the tragedy and loss of a proud clan unable to comprehend that in an industrial age, life was no longer static.(There is also a good lesson in here on the risks of not diversifying your investments!)

thankfully saved from the ash heap

This Pulitzer Prize winning novel tells the story of the decline of the once magnificent Amberson family, the leading family of a Midwestern city at the turn of the century. George Amberson Minafer is the spoiled young heir to the Amberson fortune, but America is now entering the automobile age & the conservative Ambersons are ill equiped to deal with the rapid changes. Tarkington intertwines two tragic love stories with the theme of the Ambersons decline and produces one of the really great forgotten novels that I've ever read. Perhaps the book got lost because of the great screen version that Orson Welles produced, but whatever the reason, this is a book that deserves a wider audience and Modern Library is to be applauded for including it on the list. GRADE: A

Invert the list!

If you take The Modern Library's list of the 100 greatest books of the century, and turn it on its head, so that "The Magnficent Ambersons" drops two worthless zeros, the list suddenly becomes much more meaningful. (Though you'd still have a hard time justifying Ulysses's presence even at number 100)."The Magnificent Ambersons" is too often forgotten completely (rather like its brilliant author), but it is a deep and thought-provoking book nevertheless.A reviewer below was of the opinion that nobody would enjoy this book who was not a fan of early 20th-century period pieces. I disagree. This is a book primarily about human beings and human nature, and as such its theme is universal and timeless. Certainly it has a setting (early 20th-century Indiana), but what book about people does not? And how many people are not influenced, as the Ambersons are, by the events and movements of their time? This is to be expected in any book. But this book focuses mostly on individuals, and their strengths, weaknesses, characters and behaviour, to which readers from any age can relate.
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