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A Time to Be Born Paperback – June 1, 1998
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
The story of the rise and fall of ruthless self-promoter, arch manipulator, and glamour girl Amanda Evans Keeler, the novel seamlessly propels the reader through its deliciously involving plot, dropping brisk, barbed, and piercing bombs of cutting humor all the way.
Every other line in this New York City-based minefield is cause for bursts of healthy, uproarious laughter, as one character after another finds their egos and intentions rebuked and thwarted by fate in sardonically appropriate fashion.
While mildly cynical about human nature, the novel's humor thankfully never collapses into cattiness or camp; though sometimes approaching the brittle artifice of Saki or Ronald Firbank, Powell continually steers herself back in humanity's direction whenever she veers too far towards improbability or outright farce.
And humanity, in Powell's vision as expressed here, exists only among those in the lower ranks--the novel's 'Little Men'--who are naive, gullible, and ignorant, but hopeful.
Powell's understanding of what happens to human beings and human relationships as people rise or force their way through the hierarchies of the power elite is wonderfully astute. Though the story takes place just before World War II, the book is timelessly relevant in its illustration of power structures, protocol, and propriety among the powerful and power-mad.Read more ›
Dawn Powell, Ohioan by birth, sophisticated Manhattanite by choice, is one of America's biggest cultural hang-fires. This unfortunately still-too-little known writer who died in 1962 deserves a far wider audience; pity that the publishing of most of her novels in a two-volume set by the Library of America in 2001 didn't put her in the cultural Panetheon where she belongs.
"A Time to be Born" is a good starter piece. Powell's novels tend to break into two camps--sentimental and sharp--and this 1941 novel, set among Manhattan's cultural elite just before World War II broke out in 1939--is a great introduction to the latter, more satirical work.
The core of the plot deals with the curious relationship between two women who grew up in the same fictional Ohio small town. Amanda Keeler Evans is a thinly disguised version of Clare Booth Luce, she who authored numerous Broadway plays, one of which became the 1940 MGM classic, THE WOMEN, and who married TIME magazine's publisher and then quickly became a nationally known journalist. Fictional Amanda is more than happy to let her provincial Midwestern past lie in the past but, though a mutual hometown acquaintance, plays Lady Bountiful to her naive high-school acquaintance Vicky Haven, who is about to move to the Big Apple.
Amanda secures Vicky an entry-level job at a publishing house with her big-time bullying and clout. Although she and Vicky are definitely not of the same social set, she wants to keep Vicky close--we suspect that in her cynicism Amanda is so nice to Vicky as a matter of spin control; she doesn't want Vicky blabbing too intimately about their hick background.
Well, it couldn't happen to a nicer bully: Amanda's every good deed never goes unpunished.Read more ›
These external details say little about the appeal of this novel.
As with most of Dawn Powell's books, "A Time to be Born" talks about New York City and its effect on young men and women who meet their chances there from small towns in the Midwest. The book's two main characters, Amanda Keeler Evans and Vickie Haven, come to New York City under different circumstances and with different results after being girlhood friends in the town of Lakeville, Ohio.
On the verge of WW II, Amanda has become a success by publishing a schmaltzy romantic novel and hobnobbing with the powerful under the guidance of her husband, Julian, a newspaper magnate. Amanda has married her way to success with Julian but with success will not touch much less sleep with him.
Vicky Haven comes to New York at the peak of Amanda's success to escape the memory of a failed affair in which she has lost
her love to her business partner. She is put up, begrudgingly, by Amanda who uses her pad to entertain the lover, Ken Sanders, that she jilted to marry Julian. Amanda takes the fancy pad for Vicky to have an excuse to have an affair with Ken on the side.
The climax of the book occurs when Vicky decides to leave Amanda's fancy pad and lease an apartment of her own. No luxury this. It is a cold-water flat on the fourth floor of a dilapated building surrounded by warehouses and with a pet shop on the lower floor. But it is Vicky's and it is where her life begins.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
his is a delicious satire of some big shots of US corporate journalism, but delivered through a neo-Jane Austen-level mastery of wit, character-drawing and plotting.Published 16 months ago by Hack Steele
I read this book after reading a WSJ article that identified great, but undeservedly little known artists (the others -- the painter Fairfield Porter and the composer Harold... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Quality not quantity
A representative work that surely has the best cover design.Published 18 months ago by James George
I had read reviews and though it sounded like something I would like, but I just didn't care for the writing, character development, or plot. Read morePublished on April 10, 2014 by 42 West Main
I just could not get past the first 100 pages of this book. It just was not interesting enough to continue. Read morePublished on February 6, 2014 by ivanino
I had to force myself to keep reading this for a while before I got into it. The behavior of the characters is as likely now as it was in the 1940s.Published on February 1, 2014 by Kindle Customer
Pre WWII yarn about a scheming woman married to a power, vain man. Amanda is a well drawn character who's only thoughts concern herself and her position. Read morePublished on January 31, 2014 by John R. Charles
I've heard about Dawn Powell but never read anything by her and was curious to do so. I enjoyed the story and would read more of her novels if I have the chance.Published on January 18, 2014 by Old English Major
Women who like Candace Bushnell or "Absolutely Fabulous" should love these tales of social scheming in 1940s New York. Witty and sharp.Published on December 27, 2013 by E. Jahneke