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Old 03-13-2012, 06:26 AM   #1
GrannyGrump
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Tarkington, Booth: The Conquest of Canaan (Illustrated). v1, 13 March 2012

Tarkington takes us again to Hoosier country with this novel, set in Canaan, Indiana. However, instead of warmly celebrating middle America, as did “The Gentleman From Indiana”, this book takes a darker turn and examines another aspect of small-town life — the gossipy, intolerant, hypocritical village hive-mind. The theme is that of a man against an unfriendly world. The story forays into politics, a murder trial, mob violence, embezzlement — with critical commentary by a coterie of old men who gather daily for gossip and debate.

Eighteen-year-old Joe Louden is the town black sheep, disgraced for gambling and general non-conformity. His friend Ariel Tabor is socially snubbed because she is poor and shabby and a tomboy. Both leave Canaan — Joe running away (with seven dollars to his name); Ariel inheriting money and moving to Paris along with her artist grandfather. Both return to Canaan years later — but to very different receptions. Joe, a poor struggling young lawyer, drawing his clientele from the “lower elements,” is still despised by the “upper elements” of the town, particularly leading citizen Judge Pike (Joe still carries a hopeless undeclared love for his daughter Mamie Pike). Several years later, Ariel, now a wealthy chic beauty (and still in love with Joe), returns to a warm welcome, and tries to help Joe in his struggle to win the town’s respect.

Although a number of the characters are painted too much black or white, and conclusions of some of the story lines are too tidy, it is worth a look, if only for the wonderful, typically Tarkington, descriptive passages.


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Here are a couple of quotes -- just a taste to nibble:

Quote:
Within the house above, a piano of evil life was being beaten to death for its sins and clamoring its last cries horribly.
Quote:
It was a big, smooth-stone-faced house, product of the ’Seventies, frowning under an outrageously insistent mansard, capped by a cupola, and staring out of long windows overtopped with “ornamental” slabs.......It was a hideous house, important-looking, cold, yet harshly aggressive, a house whose exterior provoked a shuddering guess of the brass lambrequins and plush fringes within; a solid house, obviously — nay, blatantly — the residence of the principal citizen, whom it had grown to resemble, as is the impish habit of houses; and it sat in the middle of its flat acre of snowy lawn like a rich, fat man enraged and sitting straight up in bed to swear.

Eight full-page illustrations. Decorated capitals begin each chapter; I am uploading a second copy with plain caps for readers that don't support "float" images.
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