Thursday, March 03, 2011


From the Terrace, John O'Hara, Random House, 1958, 897 pp

 This was the longest book I had read in a while. It took me a week to get through and has such a sad ending that, at the moment of finishing the last page, I was so angry at John O'Hara I had to have a stiff whiskey before I went to sleep. So, reader, you are warned. If you think you know this story from seeing the 1960 film with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, you don't. The movie tells less than half of the story and has a happy ending.

  Alfred Eaton is the son of a father who never loved him or even barely noticed him. This is a book about the very wealthy and all of their social ways, a story of staunch Republicans from the late 1800s to early 1950s. These people are portrayed as hypocrites who give lip-service to morality and marriage but who screw each other literally and figuratively every chance they get.

 Alfred is made out to be a fellow who overcomes his difficulties and has a sense of uprightness and honor, but in the end is a victim of the world he lives in. He has deep flaws and hurts his wife, his children and his lover as much as his father hurt him. O'Hara has you hoping all along that Alfred will make a success of his life, so I was actually angry with myself because I fell for it even though his destiny was constantly foreshadowed throughout the book.

 If you ever get nostalgic for the "good old days" and feel our current world is going to hell in a hand basket, read From the Terrace. It was ever thus and it is a wonder that we still go on.

(From the Terrace is out of print. I found it at my local library. It is also available in paperback from used booksellers.)

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