- Series: The Last Hundred Years Trilogy: A Family Saga (Book 2)
- Paperback: 496 pages
- Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (January 12, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307744817
- ISBN-13: 978-0307744814
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 323 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,699 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Early Warning (The Last Hundred Years Trilogy: A Family Saga) Paperback – January 12, 2016
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“Wondrous. . . . Mesmerizing. . . . Develops lives that are rich, mysterious and constantly changing.” —The Washington Post
“Dickensian in its breadth and detail. . . . Smiley is simply brilliant.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Heartbreaking. . . . Expansive yet intimate.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Superb. . . . [A] king-size American quilt of a novel.” —The New Yorker
“Wonderful. . . . Smiley poses large questions and offers powerful insights.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Recalls Balzac’s Human Comedy, John Dos Passos’ U.S.A. trilogy and John Updike’s Rabbit quartet. . . . Leave[s] us looking forward to the finale of this epic endeavor.” —NPR
“Smiley’s brilliance is twofold. In telling the story of an American family, she unfurls the troubled trajectory of twentieth-century America.” —USA Today
“Eloquent and poignant. . . . Smiley’s deft narrative hopping is as impressive as ever.” —Entertainment Weekly
“The second installment of Smiley’s Last Hundred Years trilogy follows the next generation of Langdons across a mid-twentieth century American panorama, evoking—with perceptiveness and sweep—the social revolutions that realign their fates.” —Vogue
“Engrossing. . . . Smiley captures the great heartland diaspora of the twentieth century. . . . Demonstrates what a novel, unique among all art forms, can do.” —The Dallas Morning News
“Phenomenally powerful. . . . What Smiley feels most like here, for her faultless skill in bringing a wide cast so vividly into being that we would know them anywhere, for the remarkable intensity of her feeling for territory and landscape and her combination of impatient intellect, emotional perspicacity and unfailing humanity, is America’s Tolstoy.” —The Guardian (London)
“The real magic of this novel is that which makes every Jane Smiley book a work of art, recognizably hers: the writing, the writing, the writing.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“[An] intimate and exceptional exploration of American history through the eyes of an Iowa family. . . . Elegantly tuck[s] a busy century into three volumes full of life, humor and sharp observation.” —The Miami Herald
“Masterful.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Nuanced and intimate. . . . Capture[s] the feel and aesthetic of an American family. You meet the Langdons in Some Luck, but by the time you finish Early Warning, you’ll feel like you are one of them.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Smiley is a master of characterization as well as language. . . . Images are so clear it’s hard to believe you’re not in the story yourself, and people are so well drawn you’d swear you know them personally.” —The New York Journal of Books
“Utterly engaging. . . . Early Warning is a masterpiece of quick and perfectly executed brushstrokes.” —The Independent (London)
About the Author
Jane Smiley is the author of numerous novels, including A Thousand Acres, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and most recently, Some Luck, the first volume of The Last Hundred Years trilogy, long-listed for the National Book Award. She is also the author of five works of nonfiction and a series of books for young adults. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she has also received the PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature. She lives in Northern California.
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Ironically, and fortunately for me, I felt at the time, I had registered to attend the Orange County Literary Woman's Conference in May and Jane Smiley was to be the keynote speaker. How exciting! Right in between the 1st book of her new trilogy and the release of the second a chance to hear Ms. Smiley speak seemed like such a privilege. She arrived comically disheveled and apparently embarrassingly unprepared to speak to her crowd of readers. She rambled on for 45 minutes or so about nothing of interest and didn't even mention her new books. I was bereft with disappointment...but trudged forward with "Early Warning".
I would give anything to have enjoyed this book. I did not. It is 447 pages long and it seemed like there were 447 characters to keep track of. The family tree printed in the beginning of the text is useless for Kindle readers. Honestly, if "Some Luck" had been a more compelling read, I may have not had so much trouble recalling all of the Langdon's and their stories. None of the narrative developed around these decidedly uninteresting people had found their way into my consciousness in an intense enough way that I still cared about them. I did like each chapter beginning with a new year and the weaving of current events into the text. Politics of the day, the assassinations, the People's Temple episode, economic circumstances and some pop culture helped to ground the narrative. But I just could not invest in these characters. I take issue with the concept that a lower middle class farm family from rural Iowa would produce a group of hyper educated, rich, jet setting, and politically relevant offspring. Really? Everyone was uber successful? I guess I have an affinity for the poor and struggling. Is it just me? Or does anyone else find it unusual that the uneducated, homespun, and ever hard working, Walter and Rosanna, would not have even one child who wasn't worth a million?
Then there was Mom's (Rosanna) shift from benign farm wife and loving mother to snarky old lady. There wasn't any reason given for Rosanna's morph into a pain in the a##. It seemed so arbitrary. So that the reader didn't care much about her one way or another towards her end. I suspect the problem here is that Jane Smiley has created too many character to develop sufficiently. I was just unable to become attached to them. I have invested so much time at this point, that I will probably read the last of the trilogy....but I find "Early Warning" about as unkempt and discombobulated as I found the author to be at her speaking engagement...and I'm not very happy about it.
Smiley does a wonderful job capturing the ambiance of the location, the political and economic situations of the time, and the moral/ethical norms of the time in question. As the book covers 30 years, all of these situations evolve and it is done seamlessly as if the reader is experiencing them in real time. Characters are realistic and very well-developed, with their strengths and flaws realistically portrayed.
This is the 2nd in a trilogy, it had been about a year since I finished the 1st installment (Some Luck; it took a while for the Kindle version to reach a reasonable price point as I refuse to pay more for a Kindle version than Amazon charges for a paperback of the same book). As a result, it took me a while to remember who was who. However, even after these folks came back to me, the fact that the family became so extended made it hard at times to follow without a "scorecard". While it is natural that the original family would grow with marriages, children, and grandchildren, i sometimes found myself focusing more on the "who's who" than on the specific mini-story and message. I can only imagine this problem will become even more compounded with the final installment (Golden Age). Nevertheless, I intend to complete the trilogy in the future.
Smiley is an excellent writer and this book would be wonderful for any consumer of fine literature.