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Early Warning (Last Hundred Years Trilogy) Hardcover – 7 May 2015
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Gripping family saga. The phrase "a great novelist at the height of her powers" is so overused, but for once here it really is true. (The Times)
Phenomenally powerful . . . Her cast is big, and growing all the time, but Smiley has a remarkable grip on all her characters . . . the third instalment can't come soon enough. (Guardian)
There is a great deal to enjoy, and it's a novel in which many readers will happily lose themselves. (Scotsman)
Here is one of America's leading novelists writing at the height, breadth and width of her powers. Magnificent. (Daily Mail)
The Last Hundred Years series continues with Early Warning, from the winner of the Pulitzer Prize Jane Smiley.See all Product description
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Jane Smiley is an excellent observer of human behaviour, she reminds me of Jane Austen’s interpretation of family connections, secrets, tensions and disguised emotions. And it is all written in such an unassuming, subtle way. The death of a parent is a landmark in anyone’s life, a reminder of mortality, and in this book we see the maturing of the five Langdon children – ambitious, tricksy Frank; farmer Joe; home-maker Lilian; academic Henry; and youngest Claire.
Smiley has a way of writing these characters from birth to maturity, through changing times, the social and political upheavals of Sixties and Seventies America, without losing the essence of personality. And what a cast it is to handle. Not once did I lose the thread of who was who, except with the appearance towards the end of a character called Charlie. I examined the family tree at the front of the book, no Charlie. The mystery is answered at the end, and sets up part three of the trilogy, ‘Golden Age’.
Frank and Andy’s troubled marriage produces troubled children: Janet who becomes entwined in a dodgy religious sect, argumentative twins Michael and Ritchie. Joe has to manage not only the family farm but also the additional land inherited by his wife. The Cold War affects grain prices and he considers whether to borrow money to plant seed when the crop may not earn enough to fulfil the loan. Lillian and Arthur’s son Tim goes off to Vietnam, meanwhile Arthur continues to cope with the emotional stress of his Government intelligence job and what comes with it, the prior knowledge of horrible secrets, dirty tricks and bribes. Henry confronts his sexuality, but will he tell his conservative family? Claire, the youngest, marries a doctor who wants to control her life, and that of their sons, in a protective instinct which becomes overwhelming.
It is impossible to summarize a plot which strides the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, the Civil Rights movement and AIDS, but Smiley handles the transition – with one year for each chapter – with ease.
This is a big book [over 700 pages] but few big books are this easy and pleasurable to read. Jane Smiley has already won the Pulitzer, with this trilogy she enters the territory of ‘greatest living’ American author.
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