Life after Work

His Family by Ernest Poole – Pulitzer Prize Winner of 1918

Ernest Poole’s “His Family” was the very first book to ever win a Pulitzer Prize for Best Novel (it wasn’t called “Fiction” then). It is available free of charge for the Kindle on Amazon. Similar to the “Magnificent Ambersons” this is a story about change at the beginning of the 20th centry, but handled from a different perspective. It is told from the point of view of a wealthy widower, Roger Gale, who lives in New York and who has three adult daughters: Edith, the oldest, only lives for her husband and children, Deborah, the middle daughter, runs a school in a poor neighborhood and that’s all she cares about. Although she is in love with someone who loves her, she keeps postponing marriage because of her work. Laura, the youngest, only cares about her own happiness.

The book begins shortly before World War One and we get many glimpses into life in New York City both for the upper classes and poor at that time. Roger, prompted by Deborah, visits her school and the crowded tenements in immigrant neighborhoods. A gentle soul, he wants to help his own family as well as “her family”, the impoverished children, but then tragedy strikes and war breaks out.

That said, it might sound strange, but there isn’t a lot of drama in this book. It is a really quick read – it took me less than a week and I don’t get much time in for reading. Whenever some conflict is brewing (especially between the daughters, they don’t see eye-to-eye on many things) it is soon resolved, and while things become dire and money is tight, it doesn’t take too long before the economy is improving again. I did like the flow of the narration which has a nostalgic and sometimes wistful tone to it. And the descriptions of those noisy and lively neighborhoods were very interesting.

This concludes the 1910s for fiction! On to the 1920s with “Alice Adams” by Booth Tarkington.

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