Early Autumn: A Story of a Lady

ISBN: 1888683317
ISBN 13: 9781888683318
By: Louis Bromfield

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About this book

Bromfield takes a close look at the Pentlands- a fictional rich family in New England- exposing the hypocrisy and ignorance behind their luxurious facade. Bromfield's eloquence when describing both his characters and their surroundings is breathtaking, and his accuracy in describing the characters' complicated emotions makes it apparent that he knows human nature very well. A fascinating study on the struggle of one woman to escape the stifling influence of her husband and in-laws.

Reader's Thoughts


It was ok, moved kind of slow. I agree with a previous reader who said that it read like an Edith Wharton book.


This was definitely one of the greatest reads (of family saga sort) ever. The beautiful language painted wonderful pictures. The characters were captivating. The setting vividly portrayed "old Boston" at the beginning of the 20th century.Most of all it was the plot that kept the book going. It was definitely not a cookie cutter, humdrum story of the "trapped" woman. But had many twists and turns. At no point did I want to say "stop whining" as I often do.The main character Olivia follows the flow as the cousin from long ago returns to Pentland to play havoc with the carefully molded "society"O'Hara shakes her world as her husband Anson blindly steps forth. She is able to release her daughter Syvil but it is her father-in-law who surprises her the most as the story reaches a climax.

James Rosenzweig

My thoughts while reading, as well as my final review, can be found on my blog: http://followingpulitzer.wordpress.com


The dominant reason I wanted to read this book was because my dad said he would like to be able write like this author. And the writing was indeed grand and worth reading the book! I appreciated the story. The story made the reader believe it would be desirable and perhaps even noble for Olivia to abandon the line of pride and mirage she lived in and live for herself but I appreciated the path she chose and thought her choice to not abandon the promise she made to her beloved father-in-law and the commitment she made to her husband although her marriage was less than ideal proved her a strong woman which was what the people in her life continually gave her credit for. Ironically, many of her friends believed she should leave with O'Hara but doing that would also dispel all that they believed was good in her.I found the family pride mirage to be outrageous when obvious and so true to life in its subtlety. The family history almost forced the living to live a lie. It became a trap. Olivia, again, showed valiant character with her honesty to herself and others without revealing harmful secrets. She bore the truth. Although the prestige of a family doesn't follow the same suit in most homes now, pride is rampant although changed. This book brought to the surface the notion that one cannot be happy living in a lie of prestige or wealth. To believe the lie is more dangerous.


Won the Pulitzer in 1927.


Life for society women in the 1920s had its own constraints, the image of "family" was stronger than "self," and the idea of a woman's freedom had yet to be born.In "Early Autumn," the Pulitzer Prize winner of 1927, we have the story of a family, its place in the society of the times and the rigid rules for family members who were almost the aristocracy of New England.The story opens with the celebration of Olivia Pentland's eighteen-year-old daughter, Sybil, who is being introduced into Boston society. Also being introduced is their neighbor and friend, Therese Callendar.It is evident that Olivia is the strength of the family. She hasn't turned age forty and doesn't seem to have time for herself. Her husband spends his time working on charities or on the family genealogy. He lives on an income from his elderly father-who doesn't trust him to run the family business.At a time without television, one means of entertainment for society women was to spend their time going to the houses of their friends, to be entertained and to learn the latest gossip. This is the case for Aunt Cassie (the family busy body) and Sabine Callendar. The women don't like each other and the author describes them as "...two cats watching each other for days at a time, stealthily."Bromfield's wit is in evidence when we read of Aunt Cassie discussing joining her late husband in heaven. Sabine gives us her own thought that, based on the husband's life with his wife, the reunion might not be all that pleasant.Olivia seems forced to live in a world filled with traditions but little love. She does see her daughter trying to escape from this family web and it seems to give her a small glimmer of hope.She meets a man who brings the thrill of love and a new meaning to life. However, can a woman of society int he 1920s ask her husband for a divorce? What if he refuses?This is an interesting story of a woman and a wealthy family in New England, at the time in history.


Slow start but amazingly strong finish. Worth the read!


This book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1927. Not your run-of-the-mill novel but seemingly of its time. I found it entertaining and engaging.


** spoiler alert ** One of the most interesting observations from the book is that a civilization is in decay when its members live vicariously through others rather than experiencing life.Contains spoiler****An old New England family that no longer carries its own blood and is name only, but manages to survive through generations by clinging to the image of the ideals of the Puritans. Olivia, who married in to the family because it offered her the stability and respectability she craved as a child, must sacrifice her passion and adventure, on her 40th birthday no less, because she has become molded into the family ideal. She carries on what the family is no longer capable of achieving.

Joyce Lagow

Pulitzer Prize winner for 1927.[return][return]Durham, Massachusetts, is an outpost for the old, wealthy families of Boston, such as the Pentlands, who live in a mansion of the same name. The story recounts the lives of the Pentlands in post World War I Durham during late summer and early fall, mostly from the point of view of Olivia, the 40 year old wife of Anson Pentland.There are unwelcome changes to the neighborhood and to the lives of the Pentlands, coming in the form of Sabine Callender, sister of Anson, who is the � black sheep� of the family, returning to Pentlands after a scandalous 20 year absence and in Michael O� Hara, a self-made Irishman who has risen to wealth and political prominence--but who is definitely not socially acceptable. Tragedies interrupt the placid existence at Pentlands, as the different generations of Pentlands react to these events in their own ways.[return][return]The book has no real plot as such but rather it is an examination of the lives of the very rich who claim distinction through family during the early 20th century. The result is an indictment of meaningless lives, where people of all but the latest generation exist rather than live. Contrasted with these desiccated survivors of an old New England family is the vitality of O� Hare, an upstart, a � shanty Irish� , who does not have the purity of blood to sully the Pentland name.[return][return]Women are the main protagonists: besides Olivia, there is Aunt Cassie, who is the arbiter of the family morals and � standards;� Sabine, who hates everything her family stands for and longs to destroy them; and Sybil, Olivia� s daughter, who symbolizes the hope of escape from the stultifying existence of Pentland expectations. These and other characters, however, with the exception of Olivia, are caricatures, one-dimensional, in Bromfield� s remorseless attack on upper-class lives. Everyone is a stereotype, although a well-drawn stereotype.[return][return]Bromfield� s use of language is stunning. His prose drifts, ephemeral, insubstantial--just like the lives of the Pentlands. Olivia speaks repeatedly of living in an � enchantment� that numbs her life. The landscape around Durham is without color, as are the Pentlands.[return][return]While brilliantly written, in the end I found the book unsatisfying. It was just too much of meaninglessness, endlessly repeated, with the characters insufficiently complex to sustain my interest. In the end, they all behave predictably, from Old John Pentland, the patriarch, down to Sybil. This may have been Bromfield� s intent, to draw characters so devoid of life in order to rip away any pretense of glamor surrounding the Old Rich, and it may have been novel during the Roaring Twenties, but in today� s cynical world, the book doesn� t hold up. But as an example of near-perfect writing, where the author totally bends his prose to his intent, Early Autumn is hard to match.


Superb. I stumbled upon this book strictly by accident at the library when I was trying to reign in my two year-old. It was published as a limited edition by the Franklin Library for their subscribers, and in its simple but elegant binding, it caught my eye. I didn't even know that it was a Pulitzer winner until after I'd begun reading it.Early Autumn: A Story of a Lady scores high in the three main criteria I'd use to judge a book's excellence: the pose is beautiful; it has poignant undertones/themes; it's a great story.A household rife with old money, burning passions, scandalous secrets, and one crazy old woman - what could be more enthralling? Bromfield spins a tale with rich depth into human nature, and a great deal of thoughtfulness as to the actions and inertia that tumble one into another like dominoes. Some of the great themes of the book are unhappiness and hypocrisy, power and duty, and a feeling of life thrust upon one's self and of passing everyone by. I found it interesting that no one in the book was content - that is, neither those who were in "the system," nor those who'd rebelled and defied it. Neither set ended up "happily ever after" and no one was liberated, walking away with the prize.


Scrivo con difficoltà questa recensione, un po’ dispiaciuta perché mi trovo a dare un voto medio ad un autore Premio Pulitzer nel 1926. Ma non posso fare altrimenti: ho letto Autunno con molta difficoltà, perché ad una lettura quasi edificante e suggestiva si sono alternati fasi nelle quali non mi era psicologicamente possibile leggere più di una pagina al giorno. Ci sono voluti ben due mesi – giustificati anche dal periodo critico degli ultimi esami e della stesura della tesi – per terminarlo ed ora eccomi qui a mettere nero su bianco le mie impressioni.La storia racconta la decadenza dell’aristocrazia americana agli inizi del XX secolo, in particolare della ricca famiglia Pendleton, che cerca in tutti i modi di attenersi ai canoni vittoriani di cui era impegnata la società americana a quel tempo – come ci ha insegnato la Wharton ne L’età dell’innocenza, gli americani criticavano le restrizioni inglesi per poi dimostrarsi ben più puritani e proibizionisti. Dopo la prima guerra mondiale, la famiglia ostenta un’antica ricchezza che non fa altro che mostrare al mondo il loro declino, mentre Anson, ultimo erede della famiglia rimane chiuso nel suo studio a cercare di risollevare la vecchia gloria del suo casato attraverso la stesura di una biografia di famiglia. A tentare di agire per il bene della figlia Sybil e del figlio Jack invece c’è Olivia, donna caparbia e intelligente, che tenta di insegnare alla figlia il valore di un matrimonio d’amore piuttosto che un contratto d’infelicità eterna stipulato attraverso nozze combinate. La stasi e l’impossibilità del cambiamento dominano la vita di Olivia, fin quando non compare sulla scena l’irlandese O’Hara, che le sconvolgerà la vita a tal punto da dover rivedere le proprie priorità e ricominciare a sperare nella possibilità dell’amore e della felicità.Il romanzo è pieno di cliché, a partire dal modo in cui è ritratta la società, tipico della narrativa borghese degli anni Trenta, e dalla presenza del leitmotiv della donna costretta ad un matrimonio d’interesse che, ad un certo punto della sua vita, decide di perdersi tra le braccia di un amante. Olivia non è molto lontana da Emma Bovary, sebbene ami davvero la sua famiglia. L’autore traccia un vero e proprio profilo dei tanti tipi femminili: ad esempio ci sono la zia Cassie, considerata alla stregua di una donna pazza, e Sabine, che dapprima dà l’impressione di essere vagamente stupida, ma alla fine si rivela una figura altamente rivoluzionaria. La questione forse più importante e innovativa portata avanti nel romanzo è quella della possibilità del divorzio in una società così definita e perbenista quale quella americana. Per questo va il mio plauso all’autore, che ha saputo inserire bene nel testo un tema scottante, sebbene alla fine ciò che fanno i protagonisti risulti altamente scontato. L’intento di Bromfield era sicuramente analizzare a fondo una società fatta solo di “facciata”, dove l’unica cosa che conta è tenere a galla la propria rispettabilità per non compromettere le sorti di un’intera famiglia, in un meschino gioco nel quale non conta nulla se non il dio denaro. In maniera disillusa, l’autore racconta dei suoi contemporanei con un taglio elegante e seducente a tratti, ma per alcuni versi scontato e pesante. Devo ammettere di essere rimasta delusa dal finale, nel quale si ha una brusca interruzione del tenore tenutosi in tutto il romanzo, mentre i personaggi perdono di spessore e sembrano più intenti a blaterare piuttosto che darsi da fare agendo. Chiariamoci, non sono un tipo che disprezza la parola, ma il risultato è che alcuni di loro che all’inizio ci avevano dato l’impressione di essere altamente complessi, risultano assolutamente degli inetti. Ho letto questo romanzo in contemporanea con Il Grande Gatsby, romanzo dello stesso periodo e che per certi versi sembra aver avuto un certo influsso su Bromfield, e devo dire che ho apprezzato sicuramente il primo più del secondo. Autunno rimane, ad ogni modo, un romanzo interessante perché è scritto da un uomo ma racconta senza nessun pregiudizio una storia femminile, cosa davvero ammirevole per un romanziere degli anni Venti.


Early Autumn won the Pulitzer Prize in 1926, and I can see why. It tells the story of Olivia Pentland, a wife and mother living in Massachusetts. She married into the Pentland family; a family with a storied history reaching back for generations, a family so obsessed with the importance of their name that everything they do is to further that name and protect it from scandal, a family of old-fashioned values whose time may be coming to an end. Olivia is unhappy; her husband ignores her and she feels that she is not really living life. Then her old friend, and Pentland cousin, Sabine, returns to town after divorcing her husband. Sabine has lived the life that Olivia has not. She has loved madly and lived wildly and she is not afraid of upsetting the order of things. She brings trouble and mischief with her, plotting a romance between Olivia's daughter and a French/American bastard boy, and introducing Olivia to a nouveau riche Irish politician who has been in love with Olivia since first sight. Suddenly Olivia's ordered life is thrown into chaos, and for the first time she seriously considers if it is more important to follow the strict constraints of being a Pentland or to live life to the fullest.I must say that one of my weaknesses is books about depressed women in crisis. I think reading about these women and the choices they make helps me think about my own life and choices. This book in particular was beautifully written, with captivating characters and entrancing imagery. It took a little while for the story to really take off, but once it did I found Olivia's struggle compelling, especially since the minor characters around her were also well developed. The Pulitzer Prize committee (I assume it's a committee?) has made a good choice once again.


Another lovely tale of the upper class in America, this time told from the perspective of the perceived weight on the shoulders of the well off, and how that caused them to be isolated and regressive.


Omanlaisensa yläluokkainen perhehelvetti ensimmäisen maailmansodan jälkeiseltä USA:n itärannikolta. Pentlandin suku on ensimmäisten puritaanisiirtolaisten jälkeläisiä ja suvun mainetta on pidettävä yllä kynsin hampain, vaikka suku on sammumassa ja säröjä ilmaantuu julkisivun pintaan yksi toisensa jälkeen. Suomennos on sekä viehättävän että ärsyttävän vanhanaikainen, alkukielellä lukeminen olisi ehkä ollut miellyttävämpää.

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