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Paperback The Rector of Justin : A Novel Book

ISBN: 0618224890

ISBN13: 9780618224890

The Rector of Justin : A Novel

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Book Overview

Regarded as one of Louis Auchincloss's most accomplished novels, THE RECTOR OF JUSTIN centers on Frank Prescott, the founder of an exclusive school for boys. Eighty years of his life unfold through the observations of six narrators, each with a unique perspective on the man, his motivations, and the roots of his triumphs and failings.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Perhaps the best "school" of the 20th century

Auchincloss writes about the world of upper-class privilege in New England, a world he knows well, having been a Groton and Yale man himself. His stories often are set in the recent past, giving them a somewhat old-fashioned feel. This one, regarded as one of his best works (it's certainly the one everybody recommends), is an extended portrait of Dr. Frank Prescott, born at the end of the Civil War to an old Boston family with broad connections, taking Harvard and Oxford almost for granted, assuming he can do pretty much whatever he wants in life. And so he does, becoming first a minister and then a schoolmaster. Almost everything to do with religion in this book, by the way, even the word "church," should be understood to mean "American Episcopal," though that's never explicitly stated. After all, in Boston, there is no other denomination worth mentioning, not among the upper class. Dr. Prescott builds a Groton-like institution called Justin Martyr and serves as its only headmaster into his 80s, which means until World War II. We experience the history of both the school and the man through the eyes of a number of other people, including a young teacher who comes in almost at the end and who idolizes Prescott -- until he discovers why he shouldn't. Other viewpoints include Prescott's oldest friend, from their own school days, and the chairman of Justin's board of trustees, and his youngest daughter (a Bohemian rebel), and the chairman's son, and so on. Every POV but Prescott's own, in fact. This gives the reader a variety of takes on the man, whom Auchincloss develops in many dimensions, and whom the reader is encouraged to both admire and dislike, depending on the circumstances. The style is very readable, very un-stilted, and there are a great many highly quotable lines because the author is a master of descriptive metaphor and wry observation. Auchincloss is still writing (his first novel was published in 1947 and his most recent in 2007), though he seems to have receded into the background of the literary world somewhat. But this is an excellent place to begin and I recommend it highly.

Elegant writing

This is writing at its most elegant. It has everything: poise, lucidity and an outstanding ability to create athmosphere.

Auchincloss - One of the Top 10 Writers in the 20th Century!

This is #6 on the bestsellers list in 1964, the year I was born. I had a hard time at first getting into the story but it was magnificent! Auchincloss is a tremendous writer and probably, in my humble opinion, one of the best writers in the 20th century. He has a unique writing style. This book is unusual in the fact that it is told by 6 different individuals. This is the story of a man from schoolboy age to his death at age 85. Frank Prescott was a man of God and of honor. His calling to be a minister and of a teacher was fulfilled and he was very successful in building his dream of a Christian boy's school, although it was not exclusive to that religion. Dr. Prescott had respect for any boy of any religion. He was diligent, proud, and yet humble. He was willing to admit his faults and apologize for his mistakes. A respected man like this is very hard to find in this day and age. Dr. Frank Prescott was revered by any who met him, even if they disliked him. This was my favorite line & one of the last: "Dr. Prescott was greater than the school which he created and by which he was ultimately disillusioned, and it is my ambition to distill for future generations of Justin boys some bit of the essence of that greatness." I highly recommend this book to anyone who has lost someone in their lives they truly admired; it will open your heart to the sentiment of greatly appreciating those who have gone before us to set a pure example of respect & honesty.

This one needs more than five stars!

Louis Auchincloss is always dead-on in his fine wrought character portraits throughout his prolific oeuvre. Here, in what is likely his finest work, that, along with all his other formidable storytelling gifts, the characterization is at its lofty apex. He also experiments a bit with form, going beyond the usual fictional biography techniques by including pertinent conversations and writings by former students (a brilliant few chapters!), family, and associates. Indeed, there is a certain irony in his biographer's comments late in the book: "But my trouble is precisely that I am not interested in writing a biography. I am interested in inspiring my reader, and I am much at odds with my century in believing that to demonstrate the best by itself is more inspiring than the best with the worst." We get an entirely balanced portrait of a great man of ideas who, joyously, is ultimately as human and full of foibles as the boys he so carefully nurtures. This is awesome, hopeful, faith-inducing, awesomely inspiring and fun read.

A minor modern classic

If you're going to read only one novel by the prolific American writer Louis Auchincloss, this is the one to read. It is a minor modern classic and represents Auchincloss's best work during what I regard as his prime period. The Rector of Justin tells the life story, from schoolboy to death at age 85, of Frank Prescott (Dr. Francis Prescott), rector/headmaster/founder of the exclusive New England Episcopalian boys' school Justin Martyr (a famous prep school), by means of six narrators, male and female, whose attitudes toward their subject range from veneration to hatred. It's an effective method of "surrounding" the elusive, somewhat larger-than-life central character, and the book is well written, the right length, and compulsively readable. I first read it when it came out in 1964, have just re-read it, and find that it holds up quite well. Auchincloss's main fault is his glib facility: writing is too easy for him; he was written too much; and too much of it, smoothly ushered in on its cushion of graceful, well-oiled prose, is pallid, thin, brittle, superficial; too much of it is engaging enough while you're reading it, but forgettable, leaving no lasting imprint. This fault is minimized but not absent here. This is not a profound or searching book, but an excellent, enjoyable read, and a fine introduction to a worthwhile if over-productive modern author.
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