Early Autumn: A Story of a Lady

ISBN: 1888683317
ISBN 13: 9781888683318
By: Louis Bromfield

Check Price Now


Fiction Pulitzer Pulitzer Fiction Pulitzer Prize Pulitzer Prize For Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winners Pulitzer Project Pulitzer Winners Pulitzers To Read

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


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.

Liz Chapman

Jacob picked this up from the library to read for himself, but I commandeered it for the weekend. It took me a while to get into. It was written in the late 1920s, which was a slightly more verbose time in literature, and it lacked the sharp and powerful imagery of Fitzgerald. But I was soon sucked in. It’s funny…the whole thing seemed very British/New England-ish. When I was halfway through the novel, I realized that there had only been two events that seemed to have any effect on the plot at all. But as I continued reading, more and more happened, and furthermore, “nothing happening” is central to the theme of the novel. The book is about what happens when traditions become more important than people, when a family name (Pentland) means more than life itself. It’s also about what people are like when they don’t have to work for anything…when everything is given to them. I think the book has its flaws, although I still think it was fantastic. The flaw(s) are discussed below in the spoiler bit. The dialogue was absolutely sparkling. I kept thinking that someone ought to make a movie of this book, if someone hasn’t already. It would lend itself brilliantly to film. The author, who for the most part, tells the story somewhat clinically from the 3rd person, also has moments of shiny wit: “ The third Pentland had been the greatest evangelist of his time, a man who went through New England holding high the torch, exhorting rude village audiences by the coarsest of language to such a pitch of excitement that old women died of apoplexy and young women gave birth to premature children.” This would also be a great vehicle for discussing symbolism. At times I felt it was a bit heavy-handed, but I think that’s only because I was looking for it. There’s a dash of Dickens-esque naming too—the family name “Pentland” seems to literally mean “a land of imprisonment”…a place where one is permanently “pent up.” I’d recommend this book if you were looking for something literary enough to give your English major heart a turn and simple enough to not be too challenging. (Also, my writing style tends to mirror that of whatever I’ve been reading. Remember when I said that literature in the 1920s was verbose? Look how long this review is…)***SPOILER ALERT***I feel slightly as if Nora had stayed with Torvald after all (“A Doll’s House”). Part of me is satisfied that Olivia has found peace in the end, but it’s a peace which I’m not sure is genuine. It almost has the same feeling as the peace one might have from “finally loving Big Brother.” I’m still processing it, but it wasn’t quite the cathartic ending I was aching for. I feel a little ill at ease, having just put the book down. Like the orchestra was building to one final crescendo-ing note, and then just went silent. I’m not sure if that’s what the author is intending. I’ll keep processing.

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.


Just plain good early 1920's socialite novel with a little drama and a lot of morality. Won the Pulitzer- interesting to see what was popular or important then. Enjoyed fully.


The storyline of this book is an age old one, but I did enjoy the telling of it by this author. The only reason I didn't give it a full five stars is because I found some of the descriptions a bit repetitive. Sabine, especially, is described a particular way a number of times, yet she never seems to proceed as a character. Some of the other characters are even less developed. This is one of those books that fits the period it was written in and in reading it now, one can't help but think it would make a good Masterpiece Theater show.


** 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.


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.


I can see why this novel won the Pulitzer. I first thought it old fashioned but soon was swept away by the brilliant writing. It reminded me of an American Austin novel.


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.


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.


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.

Agnes Mack

Early Autumn won the Pulitzer in 1926, and like many of the Pulitzer winners around this time, the focus was much more on the story than the storytelling. Unfortunately, the story being told was one that's been told a million times before. Woman marries into wealthy and prestigious family. Her husband is cold and indifferent. She falls in love with a lowly farmhand. They promise to run away together. Instead, they don't.There are 4 similar books I can think of off hand that tell a similar story but are much more engaging.


Pulitzer 1927 - Early Autumn is the story of the Pentland family a rich family in the fictional town of Durham MA - a town that easily could be on the cape. The are all about being Pentlands and their family and heritage. Through the course of this short novel the underpinnings of their family legacy are shattered and try as they might to ignore them there are family scandals both past and present. This book was just not very compelling for me. Considering it is less than 200 pages (although dense) it took me a lot longer to read than I expected. I just didn't have any great interest in the story or the characters and I wasn't compelled to to pick it up. I also didn't hate that this book - it was just there as a novel. The prose was certainly interesting but it had a lot of the same theme's that many of the other Pulitzer's in the 20s had.

Roxanne Russell

The central theme of emerging feminine independence in this 1926 Pulitzer winner was surprisingly strong for a novel by a man in the early 20th century. So was the overly romantic dialogue and inner monologues. It read like a woman had written it, not an overly talented one.I was disappointed by the ending because the romance of the rest of the novel is abandoned, needlessly and abruptly. I was also dissatisfied with the lack of dimension in characters who were intended to be complex. Their complexities are laid out as plain statements that they are complex rather than through paradoxical actions.


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.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *