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by Sargent Bush Jr.,Glenway Wescott

  • ISBN: 0299150208
  • Category: Fiction
  • Author: Sargent Bush Jr.,Glenway Wescott
  • Subcategory: Genre Fiction
  • Other formats: azw docx doc lrf
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press (May 1, 1996)
  • Pages: 408 pages
  • FB2 size: 1340 kb
  • EPUB size: 1378 kb
  • Rating: 4.6
  • Votes: 362
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Glenway Wescott’s poignant story of nineteenth-century Wisconsin was first published in 1927 as the winner of the .

Glenway Wescott’s poignant story of nineteenth-century Wisconsin was first published in 1927 as the winner of the prestigious Harper Prize. Like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. From the opening pages of Glenway Wescott's The Grandmothers: A Family Portrait (1927) readers are likely to quickly develop the impression that they are in the hands of a budding literary master. Westcott (1901-1987) begins his second novel, The Grandmothers, speculating upon the fallibility of memory and being able to chronicle events from a distant time and place.

Glenway Wescott, Sargent Bush (Introduction). ISBN: 0299150240 (ISBN13: 9780299150242).

The Grandmothers: A Family Portrait (Hardcover). Published June 1927 by Harper & Brothers. Hardcover, 388 pages. Author(s): Glenway Wescott. ISBN: 9997409647 (ISBN13: 9789997409645). Glenway Wescott, Sargent Bush (Introduction).

The Grandmothers is a novel by Glenway Wescott. It was first published in 1927. Based upon Wescott's own life and family, it is told through the eyes of young Alwyn Tower who leaves the farm to live in Europe, but who remains haunted by his long-dead family members – grandparents, great-uncles and aunts, whose lives were shattered by the Civil War. Each chapter is devoted to a different family member. Written in a lyrical, poetic style, it is Wescott's most enduring work.

Home Browse Books Book details, The Grandmothers: A Family Portrait

Home Browse Books Book details, The Grandmothers: A Family Portrait. The Grandmothers: A Family Portrait. In that house his young aunt Flora had been born, in what was now his mother's parlor, exactly below the spare bedroom papered with.

Summary, et. Glenway Wescott's poignant novel of nineteenth-century Wisconsin was first published in 1927 as the winner of the prestigious Harper Prize. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, Wescott left the Midwest behind to live as a writer in 1920s Paris. The Grandmothers, a Family Portrait, Harper & Brothers (1927). with an introduction by Sargent Bush, j. University of Wisconsin Press (1996) ISBN 0-299-15024-0. with an introduction by Fred B. Millett, Harper & Brothers (1950).

The Grandmothers: A Family Portrait. A family portrait gallery. Porter, . & Weeks, J. (1991). Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Wescott drew on his family's history for this 1927 saga of American pioneers

The grandmothers: a family portrait. Wescott drew on his family's history for this 1927 saga of American pioneers. His goal was to show his characters not as noble trailblazers who suffered in silence to tame America but as flawed individuals who were less than honest, brave, and self-sacrificing. Growing Up Gay in the South is an important book that focuses on the distinct features of Southern life.

Glenway Wescott’s poignant story of nineteenth-century Wisconsin was first published in 1927 as the winner of the prestigious Harper Prize. Like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, Wescott left the Midwest behind to live as a writer in 1920s Paris. In this novel, based on Wescott’s own life and family, the young Alwyn Tower leaves Wisconsin to travel in Europe, but finds himself haunted by a family of long-dead spirits—his grandparents and great-uncles and aunts, a generation whose young adulthood was shattered by the Civil War. Their images were preserved in fading family albums of daguerreotypes and in his own fragmented memories of stories told to him by his strong and enduring grandmothers. To disinter and finally lay to rest the family secrets that lingered insistently in his mind, Wescott writes, Alwyn was “obliged to live in imagination many lives already at an end.”    The Grandmothers is the chronicle of Alwyn’s ancestors:  the bitter Henry Tower, who returned from Civil War battlefields to find his beautiful wife Serena lost in a fatal fever; Rose Hamilton, robust and eager, who yearned to leave the cabin of her bearded, squirrel-hunting brothers for the company of courteous Leander Tower; the boy-soldier Hilary Tower, whose worship of his brother made him desperate; fastidious Nancy Tower, whose love for her husband Jesse Davis could not overcome her disgust with the dirt under his fingernails; Ursula Duff, proud and silent, maligned among her neighbors by her venal husband; Alwyn’s parents, Ralph Tower and Marianne Duff, whose happiness is brought about only by the intervention of a determined spinster.
Reviews about Grandmothers: A Family Portrait (A North Coast Book) (7):
Alsath
Wescott was a Lost Generation novelist who returned to his native WI farm land after an extended stay in Europe. This family epic imparts the intense personal drama--and the weirdness--of 19th century midwestern families in general, WI families in particular. It's little wonder that some of the text is excerpted in Michael Lesy's classic, "Wisconsin Death Trip.".Reminds me of my mom's family (though they were from Ohio): Angelic children long dead, strange uncles, quirky grandfathers, and, above all, the aunts, and grandmothers who actually run the family.
Aiata
The two previous reviewers have made excellent points about this book which I will not repeat.

I would like to add that if you live in Wisconsin (or the upper Midwest) this book will give you an insight into and an appreciation for the people who settled the place where we live. If you have older relatives or friends I imagine they might appreciate this book, as well. If you have known some of the gritty, older rural Midwesterners, this book gives you a bit of insight into what formed their character, even though their character may have been formed by their parents' or grandparents' experiences.
Uthergo
What a fantastic work of fiction. Written from a child's perspective of a family's history as remembered from his grandmother, it was hard to keep remembering this is a work of fiction and not a biographical sketch. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
INvait
From the opening pages of Glenway Wescott's The Grandmothers: A Family Portrait (1927) readers are likely to quickly develop the impression that they are in the hands of a budding literary master. Westcott (1901-1987) begins his second novel, The Grandmothers, speculating upon the fallibility of memory and being able to chronicle events from a distant time and place. Autobiographical in nature, Alwyn Tower in The Grandmothers reflects upon earlier generations of his Wisconsin family roots as an expatriate just as Glenway Wescott did, (Alwyn ruminating from Austria, Wescott from Paris). Armed with old photographs, "a great number of stories and fragments of stories" told and retold to him as a youth by older relatives, trying "to picture to himself his ancestors: ignorant men with delicate bodies, hoping for wealth as a reward for virtue... a company of dead or distant relatives," and "daydreaming" Alwyn recreates his family history when Wisconsin was a "land of extreme youth. Middle age was merely a struggle; old age a time when failure could not be disguised, or a time of success which did not satisfy."

The history of the Tower family in Wescott's The Grandmothers is filled with one paradox after another as Alwyn pieces together his multi-generational family history. The land that the Tower family moves to in Wisconsin, at least to the pioneers that migrate to the place, is not only new and untouched, but filled with great potential. The land represents challenge and new beginnings and demands hard work and commitment--all of which is given to it by the early settlers. Sadly, in spite of its appearance, the "loveliest piece of land" proves to be half made of stone. Other portions contain steep slopes upon which torrents of rain wash away the topsoil and where "perennial weeds and thistles... choke the corn and corrupt the grain." For generations it remains "an ungrateful tract of land."

To the new land with new beginnings promised, the settlers almost always bring with them traditions and beliefs that have been in their families for generations. As much as morality, family values, and religion may give the settlers the emotional strength to carry on, Wescott repeatedly reveals that these very same qualities frequently collide with the present (as well as the future) to the detriment of progress and success and, subsequently, the new world doesn't "amount... to much."

Men are believed to be the key to the future and are given opportunities over women and the oldest brothers in the family are given advantages over the young regardless of the skills or desires of the other siblings. With the poverty the generations of Tower Wisconsin families face, there is seldom, if ever, chances given to anyone else in the family. Potential futures are foregone for the sake of a sole individual--individuals who may not even welcome the option and often come up short while the sacrifice of others in the family comes to naught. Ironically, as the title of the novel implies, and in spite of the disadvantage of their sex, the strongest individuals Alwyn writes of and gives the most credit to are his two grandmothers. Thus, in many ways Alwyn's family is a matriarchy--albeit not a traditional one. Even though grandmothers Ursula Duff and Rose Tower prove to be survivors, they are not immune from tragedy and success in aiding others to the degree they would wish usually eludes them. The result for the two women is a certain sense of stoicism and emptiness that is thrust upon them by life into their old age, decline, and deaths. Ironically, Rose, the grandmother with whom Alwyn is the closest, with "wounds suffered and healed long ago" and seemingly "unmentionably sad," chooses to hide her "despair" and during the last years of her life draws "near to those who had never been near her heart, and preferred to talk about them."

According to the traditional belief in America at the time, it is generally considered that marriage brings promise of new beginnings and a bigger, stronger, more productive family unit. However, for Alwyn Tower's family, marriages often prove to be mismatched affairs. Unrequited love, missed opportunity, and unions rooted in little or no love do not bring any of the participants happiness; just a continuance of the toil that already existed for the couple before they were united. In addition to the endless, hard work that appears to never pay off, marriage often brings to Alwyn's ancestors further exasperation due to discontent, with couples experiencing even more rapid aging, suffering through the death of children, and become worn-out, weakened adults overtaken by a sort of emotional ennui of the spirit. Given time and failure, relatives drift apart as one by one they seek promise elsewhere resulting in further disintegration of what little support family might be able to give.

Recurrently, the promise of youth as members of the family head toward maturity is defeated by "waste, wreckage, or abandonment of gifts" as well as to missed opportunity, war (Wescott's chronicle references both the American Civil War and the Spanish American War), poor decision-making, or just plain bad luck.

About two-thirds through The Grandmothers Alwyn is able to summon forth more immediate memories of his parents and grandparents as he relates events from his early childhood--memories less dependent upon stories told by others and viewing old daguerreotypes. As such, Wescott artfully brings to the novel subtle, but noticeable change as Alwyn's stories become a bit more moving, sometimes lengthier, and have the feel about them of greater trustworthiness regarding the narrator. As powerful as the story of Leander Tower is--a greatly admired member of the Tower family and a bachelor yearning for love who turns away from Wisconsin and a marriage proposal (most likely due to his sexual orientation and love for a brother who goes missing during the Civil War all of which Wescott handles in a most restrained, sensitive fashion), Alwyn's narrative about an uncle who becomes a deserter from the army and disappears for years from America and the tale about an unmarried aunt who dies at the age of twenty-nine are filled with markedly more detail and are lovingly depicted as is the demise of Alwyn's two grandmothers.

Wescott brings to his writing an amazing use of metaphor. At the very beginning of the novel Wescott places "a row of embossed portraits in one frame" of famous American writers in the family home above a desk next to portraits of the narrator's grandparents. He references "the long series of passions which in the end produced" Alwyn Tower himself, and has a nineteen-year-old Alwyn Tower writing "a short biography of America." Thus, it becomes clear that The Grandmothers is not going to be mere family history. By the end of the novel Wescott poignantly reveals that Alwyn loves his grandmothers "with the fever of inquisitiveness of an adolescent about love," and goes on to compare that love to the man's love of his home: Wisconsin--a place that "when he was born it was already a mother, even a grandmother."

Although there is tragedy aplenty and no idealistic stories of tangible, material triumph in spite of giving Alwyn's family the name Tower which might otherwise signify the ability to transcend adversity and excel, The Grandmothers is a remarkable accomplishment about ordinary, everyday men and women and far from simply a string of one misfortune after another (Along with the Tower name, equally ironic is the fact that the Tower family first settles in "Hope's Corner"). Readers might be tempted to declare that The Grandmothers is but a series of short stories (just as Wescott's first novel, The Apple of the Eye might be considered three inter-related novellas), but Westcott brings a cohesiveness to The Grandmothers, especially with the framework at the beginning and at the end of the novel that raises the work above that of a short story anthology.

Wescott biographer Jerry Rosco in Glenway Wescott Personally (2002) writes that nineteen-year-old Wescott conceived the idea for his second novel when one of his grandmothers was dying and the fledgling writer stayed within calling distance of her during the night. "His paternal grandmother's storytelling left an impression he would later use in his family-chronicle fiction." Rosco also concludes that Wescott's first novel, The Apple of the Eye (1924) "had been praised for the haunting beauty of its prose and its sensitively drawn characters" but that "The Grandmothers showed major development... Alwyn's compassionate voice brings the characters to life." In the novel Wescott declares that Alwyn's "birthright, that of the son of one of the poorest pioneer families, was wealth and power enough, of a kind... an unearned inheritance, of knowledge of life, of skeletons in the closet, or percepts which had led infallibly to resignation or disappointment, handed down to him in turn... he resembled a young man whose fortune, bequeathed by numerous relatives, is so vast that he does not know what to do with it..." Thus, in The Grandmothers Wescott creates an amazingly honest and realistic portrait of Alwyn's family, but even more so Wescott gives readers a matter-of-fact account of the formation of America itself.
Kezan
I was most pleased with the care and speed with which this book was delivered. A lovely edition of an important book at a good price.
Kadar
I almost finished the book simply because it was the Book Club pick for the month. But I stopped just short of finishing it. I felt I'd had enough punishment! It was by no means of the imagination a page turner. While the author's depiction of the era was interesting, the actual stories where depressing. I couldn't help but feel that the author was expressing his dislike and disaproval of his relatives.
great ant
With the heightened interest in the memoir genre recently, this brilliant novel about a family's history should find a substantial audience. Although told in the third person, it's really about how Alwyn Tower becomes obsessed with his family's history, and from stories told and family albums, puts together the chronicle that becomes the novel. The characters give the book a saga-like quality: some fail in business or in love, some encounter terrible tragedies, some display deep human weaknesses, some find happiness and some don't - but most reveal a heroic make up, a strength of character, or the simple need to deal with adversity the best way they can and then move on, that makes them truly fascinating and worthy of our attention. Westcott is a master at recounting these powerful human stories almost poetically so that they touch us at the deepest emotional levels. The book is profoundly sad and poignant, but also amazingly life affirming and memorable. It's a beautiful book. Those of you who enjoy reading memoirs should definitely get hold of this book and give yourself a treat. It might end up finding a permanent spot on your shelf.
This is, as another reviewer notes, a collection of vignettes, and I have no complaint about that. But the writing, while skillful, is actually essay writing. Wescott seems to be trying to make philosophical and moral points about his characters rather than bringing them to life through description, narration and dialog. There really isn't even that much story involved in the various sections. This is sad, because the material has such wonderful potential. This is apparently what happens when someone writes about real people that he was close to and can't distance himself enough to create the great family chronicle that should have been. I do think it's worth reading, but it shouldn't be labeled a novel.

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