So, in a way, I'm still quite at home in those times. Recently, on reading an article about Booth Tarkington in the New Yorker (HERE), I was inspired to read more of his work, in spite of the article's sometimes disparaging tone. I'd long been a fan of Seventeen and Penrod (meaning I've read and reread them) but though I had a copy of Tarkington's Pulitzer Prize winning Alice Adams, I didn't remember reading it. I may have done for an American Lit class almost sixty years ago -- which could account for its presence among my books.
What a pleasant surprise! I was entranced by the story and read eagerly, wanting to find out what happened to Alice. And I realized that what it was, was a novel of manners -- not unlike Jane Austen.
Wikipedia defines a novel of manners as: "a work of fiction that recreates a social world, conveying with finely detailed observation the customs, values, and mores of a highly developed and complex society."
Whether it's Austen's home life of the English gentry in the 19th century, or Updike's trenchant skewering of the American suburbs of the mid-20th century, or Tarkington's astute depiction of middle-class life in early 1900's Mid-West, to me, it's like time travel. And, in well done novels, an excellent mirror of parts of society at certain times.
I moved on to The Turmoil -- also on my shelves. My copy, probably from a library book sale, has on its inside page "Norma Weaver--1917."
I hope she enjoyed it as much as I am. I had to force myself to put it down in order to write this post.