74 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Coming-of-Age Book for Young Women
Perhaps the best line of this novel comes in the final section as author Herman Wouk takes a satiric poke at himself and says of his title character, "You couldn't write a play about her that would run a week, or a novel that would sell a thousand copies. There's no angle." Of course, the angle is that Marjorie Morningstar is every girl who ever dreamed a...
Published on March 29, 2001 by Antoinette Klein
19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment for this Wouk admirer
Having so admired Wouk's "The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance", I sought out another combination page-turner and worthy literary endeavor.
This isn't it. I often read "old" novels, going back to the 19th century, so I'm familiar with the conventions of expected behavior from young women, societal constraints, and the consequences in fiction of women flouting...
Published on July 12, 2008 by TravelMod
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74 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Coming-of-Age Book for Young Women,
Perhaps the best line of this novel comes in the final section as author Herman Wouk takes a satiric poke at himself and says of his title character, "You couldn't write a play about her that would run a week, or a novel that would sell a thousand copies. There's no angle." Of course, the angle is that Marjorie Morningstar is every girl who ever dreamed a dream, who aspired to a great career, and wanted to marry the love of her life. As a reader, I was caught up in her life when I first met her at age 17 till the book's closing when 39-year old Marjorie kisses life-long friend Wally goodbye. I was thrilled to be a part of her life at her graduation from Hunter College, at the hysterically funny yet religiously insightful Seder, at the thrilling summer stock camp known as Southwind, and at every step of her tumultuous love affair with Noel Airman. From the heights of Central Park West to the seedy walk-up apartment in Paris, the reader is swept into Marjorie's life as she chases her dream to become not only a Broadway star but also Noel's wife. Wouk has surrounded her with a remarkably well-drawn cast of supporting characters including her unforgettable Uncle Samson-Aaron, her sometimes friend Marsha, her loving but bewildered parents, and Mike Eden, the friend who forces her to look at her Jewish heritage.
Beginning in Central Park West in the 30's and ending in the post-war 50's, "Marjorie Morningstar" is a classic coming-of-age book filled with backstage drama, family clashes, and a love affair you will never forget. You will be thoroughly engrossed in Marjorie's search for identity and her realization that the thing we often try hardest to avoid is that which we truly want most of all.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless Classic,
Not often does a book come along that chronicles the experience and events of a fictional character's life so intricately, that you feel as if your family photo album is just not complete without a picture of that person. That, in a nutshell, is Marjorie Morningstar.
Written by an author whom I consider to be one of the very best to come out of the 20th century, Herman Wouk offers a window into the soul of a young female actress growing up in New York City in the pre-World War II era. There, we vicariously live through the life of young Marjorie, her conservative Jewish parents, her comical Yiddish uncle, and her painstaking trials and tribulations in dealing with the elusive concept of love. But what makes this book so unique and wonderfully rich is that Wouk has made this novel a timeless classic, in that the themes which were prevalent back in the 30's are still alive and vibrant today. The overbearing "we-know-what's-best" parental figures. The embarrassing relatives. The ethnic cultural rules and traditions that clash so vehemently with American mainstream. After half a century when this book was first published, the it continues to hold a firm grasp on the ideology of what comprises the American family structure today.
Wouk has masterfully penned a novel about a young woman that erases the boundaries of religion, location, and era. Through Marjorie, he writes about human nature, our fears, our aspirations, and our beliefs. I first read this book 10 years ago, and after many readings I continue to discover new things about the characters, and myself. It is treasure, and simply put, a literary masterpiece.
What are you waiting for? Go read it.
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read classic,
By A Customer
I first read Marjorie Morningstar five or six years ago, and have reread it several times since. In my opinion it's an all-time classic. Mr. Wouk does an excellent job on character development and also vividly describes American (or at least New York) values and aspirations from the 1930s to the post-war days of the 1950s. Mr. Wouk artfully manages to keep the plot flowing throughout the (large) book by covering a broad range of topics and scenes yet, at the same time, not wandering too far from the book's central theme.
Marjorie Morningstar often seems to be thought of as a "woman's book" but it's not; I'm a male reader and was captivated with Mr. Wouk's work. Back in 1955 the book was THE publication of the year, resulting in a TIME Magazine cover story about the book's prominence.
Also strongly recommended: Youngblood Hawke, another epic novel written several years later by Mr. Wouk.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb!,
I'm not the typical reader for this kind of book. As a 22-year-old male who picked up this book because free copies of it were avaiable at my Hillel, I expected this book to be at best an acceptable, mindless read for dentists' visits, at worst dated drivel. But MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR changed a lot of the way I viewed the world.
Many reviewers have commented on how MORNINGSTAR shows how different social mores were back in the "dark days" of the 1930s. But a closer examination of this book shows that the book is really a defense, and a fairly eloquent one, of those mores. As a young girl, Marjorie tries to reject the values of her Jewish upbringing, including its emphasis on modesty, because "after all, this is 1935". But by the end of the book, Marjorie learns that the sophisticated, "modern" people she has tried to emulate are, in their own way, just as hypocritical, unforgiving, and superstitious as the religious world of her parents. In the end, Marjorie returns to her tradition--at least, this is my take on this--because that tradition at least tries to make her into something good, instead of just into someone who sneers at the "unsophisticated".
Feminists probably hate this book; indeed, there's a Jewish organization called the Morning Star Commission that fights media stereotypes of Jewish women, and takes its name from Marjorie Morningstar. But in reality, Marjorie is not a stereotype. She is a vibrant, vivacious, ambitious person who finally learns that the desire for goodness and decency is not a superstition. If anything, Noel Airman, the boyfriend who quotes Freud at every opportunity, who is a true stereotype.
In addition to being (finally!) a book that allows religion and tradition to win out in their alleged war with modernity, MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR is just a damned good read. Wouk's style and precision are evident on every page.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic,
I do take exception with "A Reader" who is shocked at the double standards regarding sex depicted in this book. It wasn't double standards - it was The Standard. When you read a book that is about the 1930s or written in the 1930s, you need to remember the times and THAT WAS THE WAY IT WAS. There are a lot of things in it that don't particularily pertain to the way things are now. It wouldn't be the story it is if it was written in and about the 1990s. So read it for the excellent writing, the excellent story and remember the era that it is talking about. Consider it a history lesson as well as to how things were. The times were different. The thinking was different. The standards were different. The culture was different. One cannot compare a story set in the 30s to one set in the current. And to focus on the sexual climate where this reviewer thinks it's such a shame they didn't behave the same way the currect culture does. There are a lot of differences - wages, technology, schooling. Not only is it a terrific book - it is a lesson on how we got to where we are today and how things change. For good or bad.
31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My Sister Marjorie,
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
My REAL sister has often remarked to me that I read "Marjorie Morningstar" so many times during my early years, I literally became her. Well...possibly, but I'll settle for the idea that, in some weird way, she became my role model. And that has to be a tribute to Herman Wouk, who tells a tale like no other. I had nothing in common with Marjorie, whose story takes place in the Thirties, and who is the product of a rigidly structured conservative Jewish life in New York City. I, on the other hand, grew up in California several decades later, Jewish in name only. But I too felt that I was chafing at the bit to get out and be "free."
Marjorie, who is 17 when we meet her, is a spoiled-rotten beauty whose hard-working parents have lifted themselves from their Orthodox roots and become "upwardly mobile" in a time when that phrase was unknown. Uncomfortable in their new world, the parents enforce the same rigid rules upon Marjorie that they grew up with themselves. Paramount to this mind-set is the implacable requirement that a girl remain a strict virgin until marriage. And the corollary: marriage and a family are the only things to which a girl should aspire--all else is superfluous.
But Marjorie wants to be an actress, and in her naivete, believes that she will become the diva of her dreams. As she sets out on her quest, she meets a number of people from what would later be known as the counterculture. And she sees life as it is outside her very structured and safe world, falls in love with it, and with the highly unsuitable man who represents all of her hopes and dreams: a bipolar song writer named Noel Airman.
Marjorie's genuine and deep struggle to adopt her new world while unable to shed the old forms the crux of the story. I was rooting for her--every time I read the book, I wanted her to conquer Broadway, run away with Noel, and leave her upbringing behind. At the time, I was bitterly disappointed in the ending. In fact, I used to skip it! But now, with many years of some Marjorie-like adventures behind me, I see that Wouk could have ended it no other way. He remained true to his character, and true to his voice.
I re-read this book with the idea of writing a glowing review. But time has worked its changes on my psyche. And what I considered perfectly normal in the days when I was a teen under the same sexual and marital restrictions as Marjorie, I now see from a modern perspective. There is a part in the book where the loss of a woman's virginity outside of marriage is described as a "deformity," never to be healed or overcome. That's strong stuff. It scared me to death as a girl, and angers me now. But that does not take away from Wouk's talent. Read it as a period piece, and rejoice that Marjorie turns out alright in the end.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Star light, star bright,
"Marjorie Morningstar" is one of my all-time favorite books. I first read it in my teens, and since then, have read it more times than I can count. Every time I do, it's like returning to favorite places with old friends.
I once read a proverb that said you can get whatever you most want out of life, but can't get your second choice. I'm not sure I agree -- in fact, I hope it's untrue -- but that, in a nutshell, is the crux of this book. Marjorie Morgenstern, the protagonist, is the only daughter of a well-to-do Jewish family living on Central Park West. Her two great ambitions in life are to achieve fame and fortune as an actress, and to make a brilliant marriage. She succeeds at one of them.
Herman Wouk (the author) has made Marjorie a more sympathetic character than the bare facts suggest. Yes, she's a pampered princess -- but she's beautiful, intelligent, charming, lively, and fun. Surprisingly for someone from such a privileged background, she's also feisty, articulate, and assertive -- which is good, since she's got several uphill battles lying in wait for her. Her determination to use her talents and abilities may have made her an oddity in her time and place (1930s New York), but it's a goal that most modern readers will empathize with.
The rambling storyline follows Marjorie (and several supporting characters) from Manhattan, to the Catskills, to Europe, and back again; in search of fame, love, wealth, adventure, and success. With time and experience, Marjorie matures significantly in some ways -- but in others, she remains immature, spoiled, and narcissistic.
The strong point of the book is Wouk's characterization. All the characters are three-dimensional and believable, people whom we feel we know. George, Marjorie's high-school boyfriend, is sweet and ineffectual, crushed by life's downturns yet getting through it one day at a time. Noel, the man whom Marjorie falls in love with, is gorgeous, brilliant, and multi-talented, with far too much charm for his own good. He's also shallow, directionless, commitment-phobic, self-destructive, and a borderline sociopath. Wally, a homely, witty bookworm with crystalline intellect, driving ambition, and a puppy crush on Marjorie, has a surprising way of popping up center stage in Marjorie's life just when she thought she'd stashed him safely on the sidelines. Even the minor characters -- teachers, classmates, co-workers -- have clarity and resonance, like those caricatures that are two dots and a squiggle, but somehow actually look like the person.
A particularly memorable example of this is when Wouk is describing yet another skirmish between Marjorie and her mother. A less adept and compassionate writer would have let Marjorie's mother remain a stereotyped caricature -- an overbearing "Jewish mother" -- or someone who wants to spoil her daughter's fun because her own looks and youth are long gone.
Not Wouk. In the midst of the argument (about whether Marjorie's wardrobe was so inadequate that she was "going around in rags", as I recall), he flashes back to the mother's life when she was Marjorie's present age -- an immigrant girl toiling in a sweatshop, dressed in real rags -- and how lucky Marjorie seemed to her by comparison, and how seeing Marjorie's safe, secure, happy life made up for her never having had those things herself -- while at the same time, she felt a bit envious. In that instant, the character turns from "Mother" into "Rose"; a lonely young girl with a very hard life, not really old enough to be out of her parents' house, let alone in a strange country where she doesn't even know the language. The shift from "Mother" the authority figure to poor little "Rose" is so abrupt and total as to be almost disorienting.
The one glaring exception to Wouk's touching, shaded characterizations is his treatment of Marjorie's classmate and on-and-off friend, Marsha. Marsha is equally bright and talented -- however, she's overweight, unattractive, and comes from a poor family -- so her ambition manifests itself in less appealing ways. She borrows money compulsively, tells fibs to make herself seem important, and allows herself to be used sexually in exchange for attention and affection. Marsha obviously adores and hero-worships Marjorie -- as someone like that will when they have a friend who's pretty and popular -- and would probably do anything to be allowed to hang around with her. I liked and felt sorry for Marsha, although somebody like that would be rather exasperating to be friends with.
But Wouk persistently demonizes her. He can't seem to get through a single sentence about Marsha without using the word "fat" or otherwise stressing how repulsive he finds her. When the reader catches up with Marsha years later (in the epilogue), it's obvious that she's unhappy, even though she's attained all her goals. It seemed awfully extreme treatment for a character who was more pathetic than anything else.
The dated feel of the book may also make it problematic for some readers. Just about everybody in the book (including Noel, a callous bigmouth on the subject of women and sex) assumes that women should get married young, raise kids, and never work outside the home. Marjorie takes for granted that she's going to remain a virgin until her wedding night, and deliberates for years - literally -- about whether to have premarital sex. I don't expect characters set in 1937 to have a 2002 worldview -- but from a contemporary perspective, many of their assumptions are difficult to relate to.
Those quibbles aside, the book was and is wonderful -- an exciting, adventurous, funny, clever, romantic, sentimental page-turner -- and all the better for reinforcing my lifelong belief that New York City is the capital of the world. Highly recommended to anyone looking for a good read.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful Period Piece,
By A Customer
This book is a real women's novel -- a Sex in the City for upper middle class Jewish 1930's New York. It's hard to believe a man wrote it! This book is at least twice the length of even long popular novels published these days -- and twice as enjoyable. Each chapter is a balanced, self-contained episode -- I'd guess that it was originally written for magazine serialization.
The characters here are very true to life. It's nice to read about a heroine who is pretty, popular, not wanting for money, etc. in an era of "poor me" novels starring dysfuncitonal people in even more dysfunctional families. Nor is she too arch or clever clever to identify with. It's an absolute pleasure to share ages of 17-24 with Marjorie.
Everything that happens in the novel is belieavable. Unlike the other reviewer, I don't think Wouk is a misongynist. Marjorie is very likeable, but she's basically a rather pampered middle class girl, who barely worked a day in her life. Of course she didn't have the wherewithall to be a successful actress, or the passion to throw herself into something else -- like altruistic, full time war work. She achieved what was really her goal all along -- getting married and creating a strong family unit, like the one she grew up in.
We see her at the end through the eyes of a former spurned suitor -- but he's just judging her from the standpoint of his youthful fantasies. Unfortunately, it's the 1950s by now -- not a great time for women. Any young woman reading this book can thank her lucky stars she was born later than Marjorie! I like to imagine her youngest daughter getting swept up into the hippie movement, and her grandaughter as a doctor or lawyer ...
I love the character of Noel Airman, Marjorie's Mr. Big -- who she tries to break off with several times, but who will neither let her alone, nor fully committ. He and many other male characters in the book are given to long soliliqueys about society, men and women, being Jewish, etc. I only wish Marjorie were given similar latitude -- we are always given to assume that her ideas are simply the conventional ones of the time -- I'd prefer to be a virgin when I marry, I'm Jewish and only associate with other Jewish people, yet I don't want to seem too Jewish ...
The fact that Marjorie doesn't have the imagination and breadth of interests as the men in the book is the only thing that makes it fall short of a 5 star all time classic. But Wouk was writing about who he was writing about, and in that sense he is writing very true.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very absorbing, not quite satisfying.,
By A Customer
This review is from: Majorie Morningstar (Thorndike Core) (Hardcover)
I spent two long days with this book in my hand, with my usual fervor an excitement for the intrigue of Wouk's characters, which are, most certainly, colorful and believable and very real. I left with a slightly sour taste in my mouth, however, as I am a dreaming seventeen-year-old, and the contented and quiet end of the heroine is totally devoid of the idealism which she once felt, and the glamor of which she once dreamed. Life does not turn out as any of the characters originally expected or wanted(I assume this is the general theme) and I guess I'm just a bit too young to be confronted with such a reality.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this book changed my life...,
When I read this book in high school, I couldn't understand why Marjorie left Noel, and I was disappointed. Now, I know. Noel was one of those toxic men that destroy successful young women like Marjorie. He could never give her what she needed, because he was too much of a dreamer. We all fall in love with men like this, and this masterpiece by Herman Wouk teaches why we deserve better. This book is utterly breathtaking. And that is an understatement.
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Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk (Paperback - June 15, 1992)