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The Rector of Justin: A Novel Paperback – July 10, 2002

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Editorial Reviews


"Louis Auchincloss is one of the best writers alive. He has probed the
American character more boldly and more intelligently than many of his more celebrated contemporaries."
—Susan Cheever --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

Louis Auchincloss has been celebrated as one of the best American novelists of our time. The Rector of Justin, originally published in 1964, is widely considered to be his most ambitious novel and his greatest achievement.

The terrain is familiar, vintage Auchincloss, in its astute dissection of the social mores of the Northeast's privileged establishment. The story centers on a prestigious Episcopal school for boys and its commanding, charismatic founder, Frank Prescott, a man whose lifelong goal was to head such a school. With laser-sharp insight, Auchincloss portrays the evolution of this man and the sources of his virtues and failings, his successes, and his crises of faith. Seamlessly interweaving multiple points of view?from an adoring teacher to that of a rebellious daughter?Auchincloss captures the brilliant totality of a man. Through the personalities and memories of six intense observers, a psychologically complex social history of the eighty years of his life emerges.

This new edition contains an Afterword by the author. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (July 10, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618224890
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618224890
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #642,560 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Ralph White on November 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
Louis Auchincloss recommended The Rector of Justin to me as a starting point, as I was unfamiliar with his writing. Then he chuckled and said that he doesn't claim that it's his best, only that it has enduring popularity and is the most commercially successful of his novels. The story portrays the fictional biography of an exclusive New England prep school's willful headmaster, Francis Prescott, and it portrays, too, the characters who "live under the shadow of the Prescott legend." The story is related through six persons in that shadow. They are a former student, Brian Aspinwall, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, David Griscam, an old friend, Horace Havistock, his youngest daughter, Cordelia Turnbull, her common law husband, Charlie Strong, and another student, Jules Griscam, son of the above-mentioned trustee. Each relays impressions of the great man which derive from their own association with him. These glimses portray Prescott's multifaceted character, yet the portrait which emerges leaves the reader unsatisfied, as with a puzzle in which there are not only missing pieces, but also duplicate pieces. Auchincloss' writing is creative, and very clever, and there are hundreds of sentences which beg to be re-read, and which are every bit as fresh on the return leg. Another characteristic of the author's prose is numerous references. He invokes authors, their characters, and countless others: Omar Khayyam, King Lear, Meissonier, Parsifal, Steinbeck, Tom Brown and Arnold, Marlowe and Webster, the Count of Monte Cristo, Anne Boleyn, Rupert Brooke, Mrs. Browning, Billy Budd, Walter Gay, Tannhauser, Freud, Molvina Hoffman, Plantaganet Palliser and Lady Cora, Joseph Andrews, Henry Thoreau...Read more ›
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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful By David A. Kemp on September 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
If you're going to read only one novel by the prolific American writer Louis Auchincloss, this is the one to read. It is a minor modern classic and represents Auchincloss's best work during what I regard as his prime period. The Rector of Justin tells the life story, from schoolboy to death at age 85, of Frank Prescott (Dr. Francis Prescott), rector/headmaster/founder of the exclusive New England Episcopalian boys' school Justin Martyr (a famous prep school), by means of six narrators, male and female, whose attitudes toward their subject range from veneration to hatred. It's an effective method of "surrounding" the elusive, somewhat larger-than-life central character, and the book is well written, the right length, and compulsively readable. I first read it when it came out in 1964, have just re-read it, and find that it holds up quite well. Auchincloss's main fault is his glib facility: writing is too easy for him; he was written too much; and too much of it, smoothly ushered in on its cushion of graceful, well-oiled prose, is pallid, thin, brittle, superficial; too much of it is engaging enough while you're reading it, but forgettable, leaving no lasting imprint. This fault is minimized but not absent here. This is not a profound or searching book, but an excellent, enjoyable read, and a fine introduction to a worthwhile if over-productive modern author.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By David Mallery on February 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
THE RECTOR OF JUSTIN is for my money the greatest of all"school novels" of the 20th century, and one of the great novels ever. Louis Auchincloss has an extraordinary collectioon of novels and non-fiction, and I hope more and more will appear in Modern Library's editions. Nobody now livng writes with the grace, richness of apirit and wit that Achincloss has, sentence by sentence. You care about hio people, and in all the novels there is a procession of fascinating, articulate characters, vividly alive and engaging,struggling, triumphing, wrestling with the complexities and hopes of their lives.. I must have read this novel ten times by now, across several decades. I have been handing out my own collected copies right and left. Nos it is newly published in a sparkling edition, and it stands with the world 's best fiction where it most certainly belongs.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
Auchincloss writes about the world of upper-class privilege in New England, a world he knows well, having been a Groton and Yale man himself. His stories often are set in the recent past, giving them a somewhat old-fashioned feel. This one, regarded as one of his best works (it's certainly the one everybody recommends), is an extended portrait of Dr. Frank Prescott, born at the end of the Civil War to an old Boston family with broad connections, taking Harvard and Oxford almost for granted, assuming he can do pretty much whatever he wants in life. And so he does, becoming first a minister and then a schoolmaster. Almost everything to do with religion in this book, by the way, even the word "church," should be understood to mean "American Episcopal," though that's never explicitly stated. After all, in Boston, there is no other denomination worth mentioning, not among the upper class. Dr. Prescott builds a Groton-like institution called Justin Martyr and serves as its only headmaster into his 80s, which means until World War II. We experience the history of both the school and the man through the eyes of a number of other people, including a young teacher who comes in almost at the end and who idolizes Prescott -- until he discovers why he shouldn't. Other viewpoints include Prescott's oldest friend, from their own school days, and the chairman of Justin's board of trustees, and his youngest daughter (a Bohemian rebel), and the chairman's son, and so on. Every POV but Prescott's own, in fact. This gives the reader a variety of takes on the man, whom Auchincloss develops in many dimensions, and whom the reader is encouraged to both admire and dislike, depending on the circumstances.Read more ›
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