Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"The Autumn leaves, we used to know." Song lyrics

Life for society women in the 1920s had its own constraints, the image of "family" was stronger than self, as was the idea of a woman's freedom.

In "Early Autumn," the Pulitzer Prize winner of 1927, we have a story of a wealthy family, it's place in the society of the times and the rigid rules of family members who were almost members of the aristocracy in  New England.

The story opens with the celebration of Olivia Pentland's eighteen-year-old daughter, Sybil, who is being presented to Boston society. Also being presented is her friend and neighbor, Therese Callendar.

It is evident that Olivia is the strength of her family. She hasn't turned age forty and doesn't seem to have time for herself. Her husband spends his time working with charities or on family geniality. He lives on an income from his elderly father-who doesn't trust him to run the family business.

At a time without television, one means of entertainment was for society women to spend their time going to various houses, to be entertained and to learn the latest gossip. This is the case for Aunt Cassie and Sabine Callendar. The women don't like each other and the author describes them as "...two hostile cats watching each other for days at a time, stealthily."

Bromfield's wit is in evidence when we hear Aunt Cassie talking about joining her late husband in heaven, while Sabine shares her thoughts with the reader, that the reunion might not be all that pleasant as his wife had anticipated.

Olivia seems forced to live in a world filled with traditions but little love. She does see her daughter trying to escape this family web and we see that it gives a small glimmer of life to her.

She meets a man who brings the thrill of love and a new meaning to life. But can a woman of society in the 1920s ask for a divorce? What if her husband refuses to give it?

This was a most interesting story of a woman and a wealthy family in New England, at this time of history.


csthankful said...

This sounds really good. Thanks for the synopsis

Michael Draper said...

You're welcome csthankful. I find it interesting to read some of the old Pulitzer Prize winners and see what they had that made them so special.


bookspersonally said...

How fascinating to read a Pulitzer prizewinning novel from so long ago! Sounds like a great read with themes that would still resonate today.

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