1001 Book Review: Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe
My first 1001 read of the year…
Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe
Published in: 1929
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Synopsis from Goodreads: The stunning, classic coming-of-age novel written by one of America’s foremost Southern writers
A legendary author on par with William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor, Thomas Wolfe published Look Homeward, Angel, his first novel, about a young man’s burning desire to leave his small town and tumultuous family in search of a better life, in 1929. It gave the world proof of his genius and launched a powerful legacy.
The novel follows the trajectory of Eugene Gant, a brilliant and restless young man whose wanderlust and passion shape his adolescent years in rural North Carolina. Wolfe said that Look Homeward, Angel is “a book made out of my life,” and his largely autobiographical story about the quest for a greater intellectual life has resonated with and influenced generations of readers, including some of today’s most important novelists. Rich with lyrical prose and vivid characterizations, this twentieth-century American classic will capture the hearts and imaginations of every reader
Book Worm’s Thoughts: Boy am I glad not to be related to Thomas Wolfe while he has fictionalised the names and place settings of this book it has been classed as an autobiography and honestly no-one in it comes out smelling or roses.
The stonemason father is a drunk with little direction in life, the boarding house running mother is even tighter than the proverbial with money, the sister is long suffering while making sure everyone knows she is long suffering and the brothers are a bunch of losers to varying degrees and with varying issues.
Our narrator Eugene is the baby of the family and shows a high level of intelligence that means he gets more support from mummy and daddy than the other siblings but does he make the most of this advantage? No, he really doesn’t instead he spends his time chasing after unsuitable women, trying to martyr himself and generally acting obnoxiously.
Despite the fact that I hated every character including the narrator I still managed to enjoy this family saga and the glimpse it provided into one specific family and their way of life. My favourite chapter was the last one and not just because it was the end of the book but because it managed to incorporate the magical realism/ spirituality that had been hinted at throughout the rest of the novel.
Who would like this? If you like long rambling passages that often lead nowhere, if you don’t mind hating every character in a book and if you have an interest in getting a snap shot of Southern life in the early 1900s go for it. If none of the above appeal to you I would probably avoid this one.
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