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This novel is an analytical study of the feeling of kinship as it is manifested in the Timberlake family, decayed aristocrats living in a southern city. The story of how two marriages are wrecked and a great wrong done to an innocent Negro boy, is told largely as it is viewed by Asa Timberlake, sixty years of age, husband of a hypochondriac wife, father of two daughters, o This novel is an analytical study of the feeling of kinship as it is manifested in the Timberlake family, decayed aristocrats living in a southern city. The story of how two marriages are wrecked and a great wrong done to an innocent Negro boy, is told largely as it is viewed by Asa Timberlake, sixty years of age, husband of a hypochondriac wife, father of two daughters, one utterly selfish and feminine, the other courageous and gailant but confused and unhappy." Book Rev. Digest Pulitzer Prize, 1942


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This novel is an analytical study of the feeling of kinship as it is manifested in the Timberlake family, decayed aristocrats living in a southern city. The story of how two marriages are wrecked and a great wrong done to an innocent Negro boy, is told largely as it is viewed by Asa Timberlake, sixty years of age, husband of a hypochondriac wife, father of two daughters, o This novel is an analytical study of the feeling of kinship as it is manifested in the Timberlake family, decayed aristocrats living in a southern city. The story of how two marriages are wrecked and a great wrong done to an innocent Negro boy, is told largely as it is viewed by Asa Timberlake, sixty years of age, husband of a hypochondriac wife, father of two daughters, one utterly selfish and feminine, the other courageous and gailant but confused and unhappy." Book Rev. Digest Pulitzer Prize, 1942

30 review for In This Our Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    Erika

    I think the Pulitzer committee awarded this novel for two reasons: First, I would guess they were impressed by the central tension in the novel which is the conflict between a person's obligations and his or her desire to be free. The book also looks at whether true freedom is even possible. The other notable feature is a strong racial consciousness. It's the first Pulitzer I've read where racism is seen in a very negative light and the problems facing African American people are explored with a I think the Pulitzer committee awarded this novel for two reasons: First, I would guess they were impressed by the central tension in the novel which is the conflict between a person's obligations and his or her desire to be free. The book also looks at whether true freedom is even possible. The other notable feature is a strong racial consciousness. It's the first Pulitzer I've read where racism is seen in a very negative light and the problems facing African American people are explored with a progressive eye for the time. Those two qualities--a questioning of life and looking at racism--are why I gave it two stars instead of one. The writing is melodramatic, angst-ridden and repetitive.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    My first Ellen Glasgow, of which I was very unsure at the outset, but which ended up leaving me bowled over. Parts of it went exactly where I expected, but there was a major twist that I had not expected, and that one told me everything about who these characters really were. It was a very hard look at one family and how they affected one another, their struggles for happiness against the odds, and the different ways they brought on or dealt with suffering. What looked like a side story in the b My first Ellen Glasgow, of which I was very unsure at the outset, but which ended up leaving me bowled over. Parts of it went exactly where I expected, but there was a major twist that I had not expected, and that one told me everything about who these characters really were. It was a very hard look at one family and how they affected one another, their struggles for happiness against the odds, and the different ways they brought on or dealt with suffering. What looked like a side story in the beginning of the novel became a major element, and it was this that propelled it from a mediocre look at these people to a work of worth and substance. I’d deem Ellen Glasgow as clever indeed. Published in 1941, Glasgow also paints an excruciatingly vivid picture of the complicated race relations of the time. If I have ever encountered a realistic picture of how double-sided and confusing the Southern relationship between blacks and whites could be, I found it here. Asa Timberlake is not Atticus Finch, but he is a man of conscious who feels genuine love and respect for the women who have served his family for generations and is unwilling to discount a black life as if it had no value. The attitudes of the others around him are often disgustingly apathetic if not downright evil. There is every kind of human emotion portrayed in these pages: greed, lust, mendacity, betrayal, self-sacrifice, resentment, and destructive indulgence. There are characters you cannot help despising, some you cannot help wishing better things for, and some who are too small and mean to even merit your concern. Mostly you root for escape for those who deserve it, but how does one escape a family, or a society, or a time such as this? Would you believe the hope that seems to loom is the beginning of a World War that will rock the foundations? The characters do not know, but we do, that this world is about to change...and not a moment too soon.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    This novel written by Ellen Glasgow won the Pulitzer Prize in 1942. Here the level of the city appeared to be sinking slowly, little by little, from a state of former affluence to the bare features of poverty. Houses were crumbling, fences were sagging, window-sashes were empty, weeds and crab-grass were sprouting among the sunken bricks and over the fallen steps. But if the background had dwindled away, the human elements had strengthened and multiplied. People swarmed everywhere. This story is a This novel written by Ellen Glasgow won the Pulitzer Prize in 1942. Here the level of the city appeared to be sinking slowly, little by little, from a state of former affluence to the bare features of poverty. Houses were crumbling, fences were sagging, window-sashes were empty, weeds and crab-grass were sprouting among the sunken bricks and over the fallen steps. But if the background had dwindled away, the human elements had strengthened and multiplied. People swarmed everywhere. This story is about a dysfunctional family where everyone wishes their lives were better but no one can quite figure out a way out of their unhappiness. The writing is quite good although at times a little overwrought. Nearly the entire story is set within the confines of the family house and there is a large amount of dialogue. The emotional energy has the feel of an extended August Wilson or Eugene O’Neill play. There may be one stable person in the family trying to hold it all together. The central character in this story is 59 year-old Asa Timberlake. His grandfather was once the owner of a wealthy tobacco firm in eastern Virginia but eventually sold the family business. Over time Asa experiences a steep decline in wealth, the dilapidated Tobacco Factory building haunts him. He is seen about town in old clothes. Asa takes care of his hypochondriac wife, Lavinia. The couple have two young adult daughters, Roy and Stanley, who have fraught relationships with men. It is not clear why the young women have boys names. At different periods in the story the women live at home adding to the drama and tension within the house where frequent arguments ensue. Son-in-law Peter, who had romantic relations with both daughters begins drinking and soon kills himself although the situation is a little murky as to whether it is suicide. This is the first major plot development. Asa also has a lady friend, Kate, who he visits regularly. It is not entirely clear if the relationship is anything more than platonic since his wife knows of the “affair”. But Asa and Kate go to some lengths to keep it hidden from others. The final climax in the story is when Stanley the youngest daughter kills a pedestrian with the family car. There is a young African American man, Parry, who works for the family who is accused by the police of the crime. He is having a tough time of it in the jail. Stanley tells her father what happened but will not go the police for fear of being arrested but Asa goes to the police himself and tells the story. The police release Parry. Stanley is never charged. 4 stars. Both the family and the story seemed very genuine to me. The writing has some racist overtones common in the South in the pre Civil Rights era.

  4. 4 out of 5

    SusanInSedalia

    So glad to be finished with this bloated, ponderous, repetitive novel. It was like spending almost a week with your least favorite older relative who complains and lectures and never stops talking. More favorable reviews call Glasgow's Pulitzer winner "analytical", but it feels more like the author wallowing in self-indulgence. Skip it and instead watch the 1942 film of the same title starring Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland. Three cheers for Hollywood. It's truly a case of talented and compe So glad to be finished with this bloated, ponderous, repetitive novel. It was like spending almost a week with your least favorite older relative who complains and lectures and never stops talking. More favorable reviews call Glasgow's Pulitzer winner "analytical", but it feels more like the author wallowing in self-indulgence. Skip it and instead watch the 1942 film of the same title starring Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland. Three cheers for Hollywood. It's truly a case of talented and competent screenwriters knowing what to emphasize and where to trim the fat. Also kudos to the casting department who worked magic bringing these dreary, willfully unhappy, unlikable characters to life.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anna Gabur

    This book had such a great plot and such great potential! The events happened unexpectedly and it could have been a real page-turner, if only it hadn't been for the terrible writing. The narrator, as well as every single character, were hysterical, neurotic, tedious and full of pathos. Everyone tried to philosophize and failed miserably (you too, Mrs. Glasgow!) The characters make you want to punch them, because they speak like this: 'Do you know what's wrong with us?' he demanded abruptly. In th This book had such a great plot and such great potential! The events happened unexpectedly and it could have been a real page-turner, if only it hadn't been for the terrible writing. The narrator, as well as every single character, were hysterical, neurotic, tedious and full of pathos. Everyone tried to philosophize and failed miserably (you too, Mrs. Glasgow!) The characters make you want to punch them, because they speak like this: 'Do you know what's wrong with us?' he demanded abruptly. In the first place, we ought never to have learned to think, nor to read and write, though that makes less difference. We're not simple enough.' And the narrator is equally annoying, trying to sound deep by saying absurd things like The only way to hold love is to destroy it. or he was [...] an atom without a universe. The spoiler-free summary of this book is: "Oh why can't I be happy? I want love more than anything, but do I even know love? Do I know myself? Does anyone know anything? No, I must escape love, I must find something hard to hold on to. I hate how my parents are so soft. Have they always been so tender-hearted? I will never be old and unhappy like them. Oh, but happiness in youth is so rare! I must drink some whiskey." What a waste of a good idea!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Judi

    Oh boy! I love the reviews. Just my sort of lemonade.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    Good lord. This book was weak. I might say there's at least a semi-happy ending, but a really happy ending would have been if 75% of the characters died in the end. What a slog. Good lord. This book was weak. I might say there's at least a semi-happy ending, but a really happy ending would have been if 75% of the characters died in the end. What a slog.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    PULITZER PRIZE WINNER: 1942 === Not a fan. Took me twice as long to read as it should of because I just didn't care. Kind of a boring plot, with a cast of characters that is basically entirely unlikable and/or sort of pathetic. Also (view spoiler)[the worst character of the bunch, Stanley, who runs of with her sister's husband and is generally a selfish, spoiled brat, who THEN drunkenly runs over and kills a little girl and THEN tries to blame it on the young Black man who works for her family unt PULITZER PRIZE WINNER: 1942 === Not a fan. Took me twice as long to read as it should of because I just didn't care. Kind of a boring plot, with a cast of characters that is basically entirely unlikable and/or sort of pathetic. Also (view spoiler)[the worst character of the bunch, Stanley, who runs of with her sister's husband and is generally a selfish, spoiled brat, who THEN drunkenly runs over and kills a little girl and THEN tries to blame it on the young Black man who works for her family until her father forces her to come clean, yeah, she faces absolutely zero consequences, so that's fun. (hide spoiler)]

  9. 4 out of 5

    Katy

    A cast of bitter and self-serving characters, where taking what one wants is the norm.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    This novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1942. There was a movie based on it the same year with Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland as the two sisters and Charles Coburn as the grandfather. Unfortunately this is the sort of novel that gives Pulitzer Prize novels a bad name. Set in the South just prior to WWII, the novel features the romantic and existential dramas of two sisters named Stanley and Roy (those really are their names). Their father Asa is a sad sack, from decayed Southern gentility, who This novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1942. There was a movie based on it the same year with Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland as the two sisters and Charles Coburn as the grandfather. Unfortunately this is the sort of novel that gives Pulitzer Prize novels a bad name. Set in the South just prior to WWII, the novel features the romantic and existential dramas of two sisters named Stanley and Roy (those really are their names). Their father Asa is a sad sack, from decayed Southern gentility, who thinks that the world is an unhappy place and has to work hard at a factory once owned by his family. It's now owned by his wife's brother (magnificently played in the film by Charles Coburn) who is rich and greedy for more. He occasionally gives money to his sister's family, especially because his sister is a hypochondriac who stays in bed all the time. Stanley, the younger sister, is amoral, anxious for excitement, and apparently appealing to all men. Grandfather spoils her and gives her a car and lots of money, even after she has dumped her nice lawyer fiancée and stolen her sister's husband. She causes lots more trouble, is still bored, but because of her family doesn't get punished even for an awful crime (the film give her just deserts but not the novel). Poor Roy mopes a lot and is depressed since her sister keeps stealing her men. There is a secondary plot about a young African American man, Parry, who wants to become a lawyer, but becomes discouraged when arrested for Stanley's crime. An example of the depressive state of the characters. "Last year, when she looked back, was as blank as all the other years and the days and the hours that had gone by and were now blotted out.... Do I hate love, because it can ravish your heart while it wrings the blood from your veins?"

  11. 4 out of 5

    VeeDawn

    This is a Pulitzer Prize Winner for 1942. I suppose it shows the schism between the older generation following their duty and the younger generation searching for their own way to be happy. It doesn't have any really likeable characters. I almost stopped reading when the duty bound father, Asa, said he never had one happy moment in his life. Really? Not even one? That seems hard to believe. I guess I developed my patience as I read about the two daughters, Stanley and Roy (why they had masculine This is a Pulitzer Prize Winner for 1942. I suppose it shows the schism between the older generation following their duty and the younger generation searching for their own way to be happy. It doesn't have any really likeable characters. I almost stopped reading when the duty bound father, Asa, said he never had one happy moment in his life. Really? Not even one? That seems hard to believe. I guess I developed my patience as I read about the two daughters, Stanley and Roy (why they had masculine names was never explained) I disagree totally with the idea that Stanley could not help being so appealing to men that she had to run away with her sister's husband. Are you kidding me? She couldn't help herself, she was just looking for happiness. Right. And Roy so strong that she couldn't let her father (the only one who really loved her) help her. A little crazy. There was a promising ending, Asa and Roy were going to keep seeking for happiness. "In seeking and in finding there is not ever an end, nor is there an end in seeking and in not finding." One idea that I had wondered about too, "...he found himself wondering why marriage should so frequently develop a grated instead of a softened edge?"

  12. 5 out of 5

    Martha Johnson

    This is apparently a bit of a classic and I had to order it from a Baltimore library from Annapolis. I found myself reading very quickly, skimming here and there, which tells me that the writing could have been tighter. We seemed to go over old ground repeatedly, but the novel is about Asa, a 60 year old man who is facing his life and hoping for some freedom. He's devoted to his family although his wife is ill and pretty sour; one daughter is selfish beyond belief and the other is only emerging This is apparently a bit of a classic and I had to order it from a Baltimore library from Annapolis. I found myself reading very quickly, skimming here and there, which tells me that the writing could have been tighter. We seemed to go over old ground repeatedly, but the novel is about Asa, a 60 year old man who is facing his life and hoping for some freedom. He's devoted to his family although his wife is ill and pretty sour; one daughter is selfish beyond belief and the other is only emerging in her own life. Therefore, much of the story is inward looking, about his dreams and hopes and frustrations. His patience requires a little patience to read about -- endless coffee making for the wife, endless grumpy conversations, and lots of repeated description about his torn and worn clothes. It's the Depression and life is raw. However, the plot unfolds well. THere are some good twists. The characters live into their destinies, in some ways. It'll be a good book for a book club discussion.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Donna Jo Atwood

    This book won the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1942. I read it as part of the 2009 Spring Challenge. in This Our Life takes place at the end of the Depression (or the beginning of the reader's depression, brought on be reading it). The characters are hopeless, the situation is hopeless, the dialogue is hopeless. Let's put a black binding on it and call it quits. I didn't like this book! Read 15.5 Reading Challenge This book won the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1942. I read it as part of the 2009 Spring Challenge. in This Our Life takes place at the end of the Depression (or the beginning of the reader's depression, brought on be reading it). The characters are hopeless, the situation is hopeless, the dialogue is hopeless. Let's put a black binding on it and call it quits. I didn't like this book! Read 15.5 Reading Challenge

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    In This Our life was the Pulitzer for 1942 and is about an upper-class family in the Virginia, The Timberlakes. The father Asa and mother Lavinia have a emotionless marriages. Lavinia is a hypochondriac and spends most of the book in bed. They have two daughters with male names, Stanley and Roy. Roy is the oldest, sensible, her father's daughter and is married to Peter a surgeon. Stanley is a weak but pretty girl who has had everything done for her her entire life - given what she wants, protect In This Our life was the Pulitzer for 1942 and is about an upper-class family in the Virginia, The Timberlakes. The father Asa and mother Lavinia have a emotionless marriages. Lavinia is a hypochondriac and spends most of the book in bed. They have two daughters with male names, Stanley and Roy. Roy is the oldest, sensible, her father's daughter and is married to Peter a surgeon. Stanley is a weak but pretty girl who has had everything done for her her entire life - given what she wants, protected and coddled. When the book opens Stanley is engaged and days away from her wedding with Craig a forward thinking man in the south. Stanley ends up running away with Peter leaving Roy and Craig to find themselves together. The patriarch of the family is their uncle William who has all the money but not kids of his own. he has a particular soft spot for Stanley that she exploits. The book is fairly well written and a quick read for nearly 500 pages. The real theme of the book as many of these early pulitzer's are is about the difference between duty to the family and one's station in life and the desire of the self. Asa in particular feels that he has wasted his life and in fact is seeing an old friend on the side. William is the embodiment of the old guard in the south - the family is everything protecting them and keeping the name is all that matters. Roy is the embodiment of a new way of thinking - that you can have your own life. There are a few black characters in the books that are largely treated as filler with the exception of parry - a young ambitious black boy who dreams of being a lawyer but the odds are stacked against him. Several other reviews here focus on an unresolved ending - I think the ending left that way because life is often unresolved and never wrapped up neatly.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    Well, it got better in the third part. At least the story became a bit more interesting. But the writing was problematic and the editing of the version I read was atrocious. There was not a single character I liked. Not one. And I utterly loathed Stanley. Everyone in the novel was pathetic and unhappy. It was a depressing story.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    Winner of the 1942 Pulitzer for Novel. The book starts out slow and finally gets interesting in the last 100 pages. The book has an ending that leaves you asking for a few more details. What ultimately happened to the characters?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    Overall, I really enjoyed this book. However, there was something unsatisfying about the ending.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Thom

    Meh.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    I only found out after reading this that there was a movie version with Bette Davis and Olivia De Havilland, and it makes perfect sense... the melodramatic dialogue, the careening tragedy, and you can so easily imagine Davis' delivery, complete with dramatically swelling violins as she tearily collapses in the arms of a lover. This is why it kind of sucks as a novel. I wanted to read Ellen Glasgow as a forgotten writer of 1930s America in the hopes that I'd find a dusty gem. No, I just found the s I only found out after reading this that there was a movie version with Bette Davis and Olivia De Havilland, and it makes perfect sense... the melodramatic dialogue, the careening tragedy, and you can so easily imagine Davis' delivery, complete with dramatically swelling violins as she tearily collapses in the arms of a lover. This is why it kind of sucks as a novel. I wanted to read Ellen Glasgow as a forgotten writer of 1930s America in the hopes that I'd find a dusty gem. No, I just found the sort of story that's better suited to Hollywood, and especially the Hollywood of that era -- I loved Hitchcock's film version of Rebecca, but I have no interest in reading Rebecca, and I can't say I know anyone under the age of 50 who has read Rebecca. Maybe I'll watch the In This Our Life movie though.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    In This Our Life by Ellen Glasgow won the Pulitzer Prize in 1942. The story is set just before WWII and chronicles the drama of a southern family. It was interesting that two of the female characters were named Roy and Stanley which are not typical female names. The family in this story continually hurts and lies to each other led by a domineering mother. The story was told well and I enjoyed this book, but many of the characters I did not like. I give this book 4 stars.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    1940’s-style soap opera! It may have won a Pulitzer but it’s not my style. Not the first prize-winning novel that I have abandoned and it probably won’t be the last.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mark Oppenlander

    Here's yet another Pulitzer Prize winning novel that hasn't aged very well. In This Our Life follows the trials and tribulations of the Timberlake family, Southern aristocrats whose wealth and prestige have declined but who still try to maintain an aura of propriety and gentility. The book incorporates elements of Southern Gothic and kitchen sink drama, channeling them through a more modern, psychological sensibility. The resulting book is decidedly uneven. The family is led by 60-year-old Asa, w Here's yet another Pulitzer Prize winning novel that hasn't aged very well. In This Our Life follows the trials and tribulations of the Timberlake family, Southern aristocrats whose wealth and prestige have declined but who still try to maintain an aura of propriety and gentility. The book incorporates elements of Southern Gothic and kitchen sink drama, channeling them through a more modern, psychological sensibility. The resulting book is decidedly uneven. The family is led by 60-year-old Asa, whose business interests have fallen on hard times. He still makes a living managing . .. . well, something. What he does for a job is left a bit vague. But whatever it is, he's sold his interest in the firm and now the family relies on generosity from his wife's cousin, the aging William Fitzroy, for any luxuries they might desire. Asa's wife Lavinia remains in bed all day, and is probably a hypochondriac. Asa is actually in love with a widow named Kate who lives outside of town with her two dogs; his only joy is going to see her on the occasional Saturday. But he feels duty-bound to stay with Lavinia, in part because of her infirmities and in part because of their modest means. The Timberlakes have two adult daughters, both of whom, for reasons that are never explained, have been given male names, Roy and Stanley. The two are quite different from one another. Roy is the practical, mature older sister, married to a young doctor named Peter, while Stanley is spoiled, immature, and demanding, using her looks and charm to get whatever she wants. A number of disastrous and even tragic events occur over the course of the novel, including romantic betrayals, suicides, and other acts of emotional or physical violence. After each major incident, Glasgow examines the thoughts and feelings of the characters at some length, asking the reader to consider multiple points of view. There are some histrionics and even more mental hand-wringing. I found it hard to relate to many of the attitudes expressed. A major theme of the book is familial duty and obligation, and it didn't resonate for me. Perhaps it reflects a flaw in my character, but if a child of mine acted the way that Stanley did in this book, or if I had wife like Lavinia, I think there would be a few "come to Jesus" moments in my future. I also found it almost impossible to like any of the characters. The only person for whom I had any empathy was Asa, the long-suffering husband. He didn't seem like such a bad guy, but his sense of propriety and duty left him chained down and unhappy. The tale takes on tragic proportions, but Asa feels like more of a victim than the other flawed, and frequently selfish characters. Nowadays, if anyone remembers this book, it is probably due to a minor plot thread that deals with a wrong done to an African-American character. Glasgow draws this racist incident to the reader's attention and highlights the injustice of it. Apparently, this was still a pretty radical idea way back in 1941. This moment arrives pretty late in the book though, and the novelty of it probably won't redeem the time it takes to slog through all of this sad and broken family's tragic consternation.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rina

    This novel is an analytical study of the feeling of kinship as it is manifested in the Timberlake family, decayed aristocrats living in a southern city. The story of how two marriages are wrecked and a great wrong done to an innocent Negro boy, is told largely as it is viewed by Asa Timberlake, sixty years of age, husband of a hypochondriac wife, father of two daughters: one utterly selfish and feminine, the other courageous and gallant but confused and unhappy. Above description is copies from This novel is an analytical study of the feeling of kinship as it is manifested in the Timberlake family, decayed aristocrats living in a southern city. The story of how two marriages are wrecked and a great wrong done to an innocent Negro boy, is told largely as it is viewed by Asa Timberlake, sixty years of age, husband of a hypochondriac wife, father of two daughters: one utterly selfish and feminine, the other courageous and gallant but confused and unhappy. Above description is copies from Goodreads. I couldn't have done it better. Published in 1941 the writing style is very hard to read as it repeats several phrases and concepts too many times to be an easy read. Many times the questions leave you a bit wondering, i.e. "You mean?" as the reader is to infer what the character is saying. As far as the characters, most I could not stand and wished someone would slap them upside the head, hard! and explain how things ARE not how they wish them to be. As a study goes its fine but as the novel it purports itself to be, not so fine at all.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Judy Jones

    Set in the 1940s on the verge of World War II, Glasgow's Pulitzer Prize winning novel is the story replete with tragic characters: Asa Timberlake, a man who has stayed in a loveless marriage for 30 years and a dead-end job for even longer; Lavinia, Asa's wife, a hypochondriac who has shut herself in her room and become an invalid; Stanley, Asa and Lavinia's daughter, beautiful and manipulative, her mother's favorite; Roy, another of Asa and Lavinia's daughters, not as beautiful or manipulative a Set in the 1940s on the verge of World War II, Glasgow's Pulitzer Prize winning novel is the story replete with tragic characters: Asa Timberlake, a man who has stayed in a loveless marriage for 30 years and a dead-end job for even longer; Lavinia, Asa's wife, a hypochondriac who has shut herself in her room and become an invalid; Stanley, Asa and Lavinia's daughter, beautiful and manipulative, her mother's favorite; Roy, another of Asa and Lavinia's daughters, not as beautiful or manipulative as her sister, her father's favorite; Andrew, the couple's son who is married and is satisfied with living a mediocre life with a mediocre job; Uncle William, Lavinia's wealthy uncle who has spoiled Stanley and made sure Lavinia is cared for; Aunt Charlotte, Uncle William's wife; Peter, Roy's husband at the beginning of the novel; Craig, Stanley's fiance at the beginning of the novel; Minerva, an African-American woman who works for the Timberlakes. Parry, Minerva's son who is an excellent student and wants to become a lawyer. Abel, Minerva's husband, Parry's father, whose passion is growing flowers in his time away from his job. Written in third person omniscient point of view, the story begins by focusing on Asa Timberlake as he watches his old homeplace be demolished. His father brought to ruin financially and eventually physically when he loses his ability to walk, takes his gun down the hill behind the house and kills himself. Asa himself is a beaten man. He is married to a woman he does not and perhaps never did love. His one pleasure is going to a farm owned by a couple with whom he is long-time friends and spending Sunday afternoons with them when he can get away. When the husband dies, he continues to visit, and he envisions a day when he will be "free" to spend his life there where he can be happy. Happiness is the elusive treasure all of the characters are seeking. For Roy, happiness is love. For Stanley, it is going after anything she doesn't have; for William, it is power; for Parry, it is an education and becoming a lawyer. For other characters, the prescription for happiness is not clear. Over and over, characters bemoan their unhappiness and claim their right to happiness. Characters like Stanley have no qualms about destroying the happiness of others in pursuit of their own. Characters like Asa, on the other hand, freely give up their own happiness in an attempt to make others happy, seldom regretting their own loss of happiness. As the characters seek their various forms of happiness, sometimes with tragic consequences, the family forms a protective barrier around its members until Asa stands up to them all and demands honesty that will save a life while exposing one of his own to potential danger. Even after his heroic move, it is not clear whether Asa, or for that matter, anyone else among his family or friends, will achieve the happiness they all desire so desperately. For the characters in the novel who find happiness, they learn that what they thought was happiness has turned out to be fleeting at best or false at worst. Perhaps Glasgow's message to the reader is that when we spend our lives chasing after unachievable happiness, we may find that we have missed the happiness that is in the details, the minutes and hours of joy woven into the misery and mundane occurrences of daily life.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cate Ruane

    Other reviewers have given synopsis’ of In This Our Life, so I’ll skip that. On one hand you have to admire the novel, given that Glasgow tackled issues of racism well before it became popular. I imagine that in 1941 this might have been a controversial novel, especially to those living in places like Virginia where the novel is set. But I have two regrets. First, I wish Glasgow had made more of the plot-line involving the black family: Minerva, Abel, and their son Parry. There were only two cha Other reviewers have given synopsis’ of In This Our Life, so I’ll skip that. On one hand you have to admire the novel, given that Glasgow tackled issues of racism well before it became popular. I imagine that in 1941 this might have been a controversial novel, especially to those living in places like Virginia where the novel is set. But I have two regrets. First, I wish Glasgow had made more of the plot-line involving the black family: Minerva, Abel, and their son Parry. There were only two chapters that shift solidly to their point-of-view, and here the novel is at its strongest. Minerva, a servant in the Timberlake family, is presented as a noble character, and she might just be the novel’s most well-adjusted and wise character. Near the end of the novel a great injustice is done to Parry, her son, and this was the point where I couldn’t put the book down. Had Glasgow made this plot-line the main focus of the novel, she might have come away with a To Kill A Mockingbird, 20 years before the classic. And yet… My second regret. Glasgow, while well intended, is blind to her own subtle racism (which doesn’t come off subtlety in 2019). For example, there’s a scene where Asa Timberlake visits a jail cell filled with black men. In the third-person POV, the novel reads, “Here the ranker odors of Africa gripped the pit of Asa’s stomach; he was obligated to wait till the queasiness passed and the fog in his brain lifted.” There’s plenty of sentences like that. Whenever Parry’s extraordinary intelligence and potential is mentioned, it is added that he “could pass for white,” followed by a bit of pondering as to what degree he is really is white. (Because, hell yes, some of those superior white genes must have been passed down, OMG!) He can’t just be an intelligent black man and leave it at that. Honestly, it’s cringe-worthy. The main theme of the novel is, as Tolstoy wrote, "…every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." The white folks get a little boring at times, and are prone to melodrama. They are very caught up in their own unhappiness, and only Asa Timberlake rises above it every once in a while. Should you read the book? As a history/anthropological lesson it’s interesting in the way Trollope is worth reading for a true-to-the-time take on antisemitism. But, in many respects, the book hasn’t worn well. It’s heavy on the “White Savior” trope, which is pretty sickening in our day and time. One thing I’ll add though is that there is some good writing here. For example; “The thing we fear passes us by and strikes in a new place.” Whoa! I’m not surprised that the book won the Pulitzer in 1942. But, were it written today, In This Our Life would require a ruthless editor.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    I vacillated between 3 and four stars. This novel consists mostly of the interior thoughts of the characters, although there is an arc to the plot. The characters ask a lot of internal questions - a device that grew old for me as nothing was ever answered. This novel is certainly depressing, and only a couple of the characters are likable. Stanley is a self-centered egoist who always gets the sympathy of her mother and uncle. Asa, the father, is the most sympathetic character, but is weak. The s I vacillated between 3 and four stars. This novel consists mostly of the interior thoughts of the characters, although there is an arc to the plot. The characters ask a lot of internal questions - a device that grew old for me as nothing was ever answered. This novel is certainly depressing, and only a couple of the characters are likable. Stanley is a self-centered egoist who always gets the sympathy of her mother and uncle. Asa, the father, is the most sympathetic character, but is weak. The subplot with Minerva, the black laundress, and her son Parry is not well developed. The author was certainly a talented writer. Glasgow wrote some beautiful passages (some that I highlighted), such as: In the white stillness, through the hurrying snowflakes, the street and the bared branches of the trees and the fronts of the houses appeared as fugitive as shapes that float between waking and sleeping. Only when a horn tooted, and the lights of a car crashed through the pallid dusk, did the scene and the March afternoon wear a look of reality. I had wanted to read this novel after seeing the John Huston directed movie of the same name starring Bette Davis as Stanley (a perfect actress for the part!). Until late last year, this was a difficult book to find for a reasonable price even though it won a Pulitzer Prize in 1942. Thanks for the kindle version!The novel does end on a hopeful note, at least "hopeful" in the context of the book. I enjoyed reading this, but don't know whether I would recommend it to everyone. If you like novels with a heavy atmosphere, including the weather described in the book - almost everyday was rainy, cold and windy - then you might find it interesting. I liked this well enough to be interested in reading another of her novels.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gary Lindsay

    I read this book because I am trying to read all the Pulitzer Fiction winners. This one is hard to find and even harder to read. The cover on my paperback copy is illustrated with a painting of the main characters in a style reminiscent of Payton Place. That was a good marketing decision, but is misleading. The blurb on the cover, "The powerful novel of an aristocratic southern family torn by inner conflict and social change" also misrepresents the novel. The setting is just prior to WWII in the I read this book because I am trying to read all the Pulitzer Fiction winners. This one is hard to find and even harder to read. The cover on my paperback copy is illustrated with a painting of the main characters in a style reminiscent of Payton Place. That was a good marketing decision, but is misleading. The blurb on the cover, "The powerful novel of an aristocratic southern family torn by inner conflict and social change" also misrepresents the novel. The setting is just prior to WWII in the south, and the topic is finding happiness. A fair estimate is that 95% of the novel's text is dialog and 90% of that is one character after another bemoaning his or her unhappiness. These are characters who do nothing, except poor Asa who goes to work in his uncle's factory everyday at an entry-level position (and he's nearly 60) and care for his bedridden wife who only imagines that she's sick. This is a pre-war portrait of our "Greatest Generation." If it portrays this generation accurately war does not get enough credit for its ability to transform human nature for the better. I think a better explanation is that this book simply misses the mark, and that the Pulitzer committee chose poorly.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Towley

    In This Our Life is one of the last Pulitzers I had left to read. It’s taken me this long because the book is out of print and there aren’t a ton of copies available. Really, this is not surprising given how utterly boring the book is. There’s both a lot going on in the story and also not much of anything. I really just couldn’t muster two licks of giving a shit about these privileged, whiny characters. They did seem to be even more bored with their own lives than I was, which is saying something In This Our Life is one of the last Pulitzers I had left to read. It’s taken me this long because the book is out of print and there aren’t a ton of copies available. Really, this is not surprising given how utterly boring the book is. There’s both a lot going on in the story and also not much of anything. I really just couldn’t muster two licks of giving a shit about these privileged, whiny characters. They did seem to be even more bored with their own lives than I was, which is saying something because god damn was I bored with them. Each of the characters had their own internal struggles, most of which revolved around reconciling what one wants to do with what one must or should do. Certainly not a new theme, but one that is interesting and universal enough. That is, if you are at all interested in the characters. Really what best demonstrates my experience with this book is when I realized there were about 20 pages missing from the middle of the book and apparently nothing of import happened in those pages, because it picked up pretty much in the same place it was before the pages went missing. Obviously, I would not recommend this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christine Sinclair

    This novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1942, and although it is a bit dated, it's still a good read. The film that was based on it starred Olivia De Havilland as Roy and Bette Davis as Stanley (the younger, prettier one!). Why the daughters have boys names is never mentioned or explained. Hmmm. Good story with interesting characters, but a bit too much philosophizing for my taste. (I love the edition I bought on E-bay, a Franklin Library book bound in green leather with gilding on the cover and th This novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1942, and although it is a bit dated, it's still a good read. The film that was based on it starred Olivia De Havilland as Roy and Bette Davis as Stanley (the younger, prettier one!). Why the daughters have boys names is never mentioned or explained. Hmmm. Good story with interesting characters, but a bit too much philosophizing for my taste. (I love the edition I bought on E-bay, a Franklin Library book bound in green leather with gilding on the cover and the page edges, and green moire endpapers. Beautiful!)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    The novel that won Glasgow the Pulitzer and her last novel, In This Our Life follows the plight of a family in which a young woman is willing to let a black chauffeur studying law in the novel take the blame for an accident in which she kills another person. It was made into a major motion picture starring Bette Davis. The conflict between the reckless sister and the responsible one takes up most of the plot in the novel, as one always wants what the other one has.

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