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Thomas Bailey Aldrich was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1836. Family circumstances forced a move when Aldrich was a child, but some years later he returned to Portsmouth to prepare for college. "The Story of a Bad Boy", the book for which Aldrich is best remembered, is the semi-autobiographical novel that reflects this period in his life. It was written, (in 1870), while Aldrich was an editor for Ticknor and Fields, just before he became the editor of Atlantic Monthly. "The Story of a Bad Boy" preceded "Tom Sawyer" by several years, is widely considered the first authentic American boyhood novel, and was credited as an inspiration by Mark Twain.
A more rueful, but elegant, tribute to his native Portsmouth capped Aldrich's career in 1893 in "An Old Town By the Sea". While Aldrich had placed some romances and humorous fictions in Portsmouth, this book marked a frank and slightly melancholy memoir of lost Portsmouth days
Since this is was a Kindle freebie I was tempted to revisit the book, although I did not expect it to have aged well.
But guess what? This book remains engaging, vital and accessible. Aldrich had a refined but generous and open style that rewards the reader with clear muscular prose flavored by a sort of old fashioned elegance that enriches rather than obstructs the story. Aldrich had a well developed poetic sensibility, and that is reflected in this prose work. It is a satisfying, if mild, read for an adult and might even be a refreshing read for a younger audience. The style is not particularly challenging, but rather is elegant without being convoluted or overly ornamented.
So, well worth a look, and if the prose style and the mellowness charm you, so much the better.
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