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April 11, 2016

The Magnificent Ambersons

Magnificent AmbersonsThe Magnificent Ambersons

By: Booth Tarkington

I hadn’t heard of Booth Tarkington until I moved to this area, but now I run across his name on a daily basis, so I thought I’d better read his best-known work, The Magnificent Ambersons. It’s now considered sentimental and somewhat of a forgotten classic, but I thought is was a fantastic story about the rise and fall of fortunes as a town rapidly grows into a large city, and is studded with Tarkington’s razor-sharp observations.

In a fictionalized version of late-1800s Indianapolis, the Ambersons are the most fashionable and wealthiest family. George Amberson Minafer, the spoiled, stubborn, and arrogant sole grandchild of the great patriarch, storms about town getting into fights and bullying everyone by virtue of his family’s position. Nobody likes him much except his doting mother, Isabel, and even his friends long for an opportunity to take him down a couple pegs.

He falls in love with Lucy Morgan, the daughter of an old family friend who recently returned to town. While she loves him too, she’s well-aware of his faults and won’t marry him until he finds a profession, something he feels is beneath his position.  Later, George finds out that his mother had been romantically linked to Lucy’s father before she married George’s father, which starts a chain of family drama and bad investments during which the entire Amberson fortune is lost.

From the grandest house to sharing a three-bedroom apartment with his Aunt Fanny, George certainly comes down in the world. As Tarkington so aptly puts it “George Minafer had got his come-upance [sic], but the people who had so longed for it were not there to see it, and they never knew it. Those who were still living had forgotten all about it and all about him.”


Review By: Julia Welzen