Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In This Our Life

Finished In This Our Life by Ellen Glasgow. It won the Pulitzer in 1941. This family saga, set in Virginia at the end of the Depression, deals with various boundaries of acceptance. Stanley and Roy are sisters. Although Stanley is about to be married, she runs off with Roy’s husband Peter, creating scandal, havoc and bitterness. Stanley is a reckless person who never considers the consequences of her actions. Roy considers everything carefully, thoughtfully and emotionally. Their sensitive father, Asa, does his best for his family. His father before him owned the local tobacco plant where Asa now works in the stemming room. Asa's father lost the business and committed suicide when his son was a teenager. Asa is a patient man who has witnessed and endured a good deal of grief. His wife, Lavina, is a long-time invalid, who worries, fusses and fidgets over herself and Stanley, her favorite. Lavina’s Uncle William is a bombastic business man that helps keep the family afloat financially, and spoils Stanley in the process.

While most chapters deal with the ongoing turmoil of Asa’s family, some chapters are devoted only to the family of Parry, a young African American man who is studying hard in order to attend law school. He is encouraged by Asa who sees his promise and longs to help him achieve his dream. Parry’s mother had once been nursemaid to Stanley and Roy, as her mother had been to Asa. Now she takes in washing. Her husband is a mail carrier, who spends his free time tending his own lovely garden. Their life moves in a quiet, predictable routine until Stanley selfishly allows Parry to be accused of a crime she herself committed.

I enjoyed this book, although the daily emotional grind of the characters sometimes brought me down. It was made into a film in 1942 starring Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland as the two sisters. I’m sure you can guess who was cast as who.

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