This book of short stories provides a rare glimpse and unique cultural viewpoint of growing up in a mid-western working class environment in the late 1940s and early 1950s. ESsentially, the family lived an affluent lifestyle until his father made a few bad business decisions, lost their home, and later died from a lingering illness. The observations and insights Brodkey provides are priceless. He contrasts his position to that of a wealthy friend, whom he met at an Ivy League school and whose viewpoint and values reflect a totally different approach to life. He describes his mother's aspirations for his sister, whose *only* chances for a "better life", i.e., achieving social and economic advantages, was by dating the right class of boyfriend, as she was expected to marry into a higher social class. The "Quarrel" is a story about his visit to France with a very wealthy friend and their adventures and "fall out", when their social, cultural and viewpoints about life clash, resulting in a quarrel with wounded feelings that can never be repaired. One of my favorite stories is "Sentimental Education" where a male student sees a pretty young lady at the college he attends and longs to meet and date her. He occasionally sees her at different locations but is too shy to speak to her. He daydreams about meeting her as he falls head over heels in love. He discovers she signed up for a Medieval poetry class, so he changes his choice and signs up for the same class. Eventually they meet and discuss literature. The heart of this story is the strong physical and emotional needs that accompnay this "first love' experience. Brodkey is a tremendously gifted author who provides keen and sensitive insights into life as it was lived in the 1950s. He provides an interesting contrast of the viewpoints of working people and those who possess privilege, money, and therefore more power. This is a book rich with detailed observations about social distinctions and the human behavior that accompanies different positions in society. It provides a greater understanding of r life as it was lived within a particular cultural era. This book receives my highest recommendations. Erika Borsos (bakonyvilla)
A sensitive and deeply moving portrayal of what it means to grow up. Each story transports the reader into a nostalgic, sepia tinted America of yester year where disappointments and regret lurked beneath the veneer of suburban respectability and aspiration.