Thursday 22 October 2015

Early Warning

Finished October 18
Early Warning by Jane Smiley, read by Lorelei King

This book follows the Langdon family from 1953 to the early 1980s. As the book opens, the patriarch of the family, Walter, has died, and the family convenes in Iowa for his funeral. His wife Rosanna remains on the farm, as does one of the sons, Joe, who married Lois, and has a son Jesse, and later a daughter. Frank has made his way to Washinton, D.C. where he becomes a mover and shaker in the corporate world, drawing on some of his experiences as a sniper in World War Two. Frank has married Andy, a woman with her own issues, and had first a daughter and then twin sons, who have a lifelong rivalry. Lilian has been swept off her feet and to the East coast by Arthur, a CIA planner, and they have four children, two boy and two girls. Claire marries thoughtfully, but finds her husband a very controlling man, and it takes her some time to find her own place in the world, after having two sons.
The novel takes us through all the major events of the time period, from Vietnam to anti-war demonstrations, from the Cold War to the Cuban Missile Crisis and Watergate, from LSD to Jim Jones. The characters become involved in some ways peripherally and in others directly, and we see tragedy, joy, marriage, divorce, addiction, psychoanalysis, and of course the growth of a new generation of characters. It continues the story started in Some Luck, which I haven't yet read, and a third volume is expected. The characters vary in depth, and we see growth in all the main characters, both in experience as well as age. A very enjoyable book that gives a taste of the times it is set in. A book of America in the mid-to-late twentieth century.

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