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The Late George Apley Paperback – March 9, 2004
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This is a novel about manners and invokes the particular time and place of the WASP ascendency in America, just before the second World War. Marquand's hero is a representative of what used to be known as a "Boston Brahmin." Marquand handles Apley with a mixture of bemusement and foundness. He has clearly met George Apley's in his life and knows the type well. What would have been in less capable hands a mere characture, becomes a full portrait of what was at the time, a dying breed. Marquand sensed this and this provides the point of departure for the book.
"The Late George Apley is a bit of a pastische of privately printed books designed to memorialize a dearly departed loved one. This allows Marquand to use his frequently used flashback technique to describe the particulars of Apley's life. At times this provides Marquand with the opportunity to indulge in both high comedy and low drama, as is the case when Apley falls in love with a girl who is both Irish and Catholic. Although this enables some satire on the subject of the way Boston's elite viewed the Irish, it is also a source of regret that Apley, like so many characters in Marquand's books, did not make a different choice in life. Sentiments that as Jonathan Yardley has observed "are not just limited to the denizens of Backbay or Harvard Square."
As I read on, I was hooked, despite myself, on the story of this upright and well-meaning man for whom a rich life, at least as he comes to understand it, seems always just out of reach. Marquand narrates the story through the use of fictional letters by Apley's family members and friends (along with his replies). This technique lends a quality of delicate formality to the "biography," as if one were reading one of those old books whose pages must be cut. Not only are the man and the world he inhabited lost to us, but also the very way in which men and women of his time expressed their thoughts and hopes.
Its twin is William Dean Howells' "The Rise of Silas Lapham." This is a tale of a man from the provinces (Vermont, then) who makes a fortune in paint manufacturing and comes to take his place among the wealthy inhabitants of Gilded Age Boston. One can imagine Lapham and Apley meeting in some velvet-draped drawing room, and one can imagine as well their mutual incomprehension. The seemingly crass new world that Apley deplores is the sphere of Lapham; the snobberies and fingerbowls that so confuse Lapham is the sphere of Apley.
Both of these novels give great pleasure and desire a wider readership.
Marquand uses a brilliant narrative device using two voices: the ever-so-proper Bostonian diarist and George's black sheep son. The two frequently write each other disputing the type of memoir to be written about George. You grow very fond of both these completely different narrators.
This is one of my all-time-favorite novels. Reading it once is not enough
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A gently satirical portrait of now extinct Bostonian "WASPs", including Apley and the fictitious narrator. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is an interesting novel about life at the top in Boston and how it changed from the later 1800s into the 1900s. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Mark bennett
The novel, largely an epistolary one, gives a deep and thoughtful overview of the life of George Apley, a scion of Boston during the last half of the 19th century and the first... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Montana Mackay
What a great book. Too bad we don't have more brilliant writers like Marquand now or the educational establishment to appreciate such great work. Read morePublished 11 months ago by R. Ginocchio
I cannot say too much in praise of this classic. It's quite inadequate to say it's involving, clever, wise, touching, sad and funny, but it is all of those things and more. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Walter J. Jamieson Jr.
The subtitle for THE LATE GEORGE APLEY is A NOVEL IN THE FORM OF A MEMOIR, and so, rather than a traditional, and likely less effective, approach, author John Marquand makes use of... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Bryan Byrd