Monday, March 21, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
by Sinclair Lewis
George Babbitt is a middle-aged real-estate broker living in the fictional Midwestern town of Zenith in the 1920s. He has done everything “right” in life and lives with his kids and wife in a nice little town. He’s well respected in the community and is successful in business. He loves to think about his superiority over others and “subtly” brag about his material possessions.
When a crisis with his best friend sends him spiraling into a midlife crisis we learn just how unhappy Babbitt truly is. He’s built a perfect world, based on what he’s been told means success, yet he feels empty.
“Every Saturday afternoon he hustled out to his country club and hustled through nine holes of golf, as a rest after the week’s hustle.”
Babbitt reminded me quite a bit of The Corrections, except I hated that book and I didn’t hate this one. It has a similar concept, looking at the average American family and the dysfunction within it, but this one was published about 80 years earlier. I think Babbitt touched on issues that were completely new and hadn’t been discussed yet, like ambition and success vs. family values, the “American Dream” of bigger cars and bigger paychecks vs. happiness.
Even though I liked this book, I struggled to feel attached to it because I disliked the characters so much. There’s not a likeable one in the bunch. Babbitt is a self-important fool, his kids are spoiled brats, and even his wife is a bit of a simpleton. I was impressed with what Lewis said about American society in the early 20th century, before everyone else was saying it, but I didn’t love the book itself.
This was my first experience with Sinclair Lewis (who I have always confused with Upton Sinclair) and I’m looking forward to seeing if some of his other famous books, like Main Street, have the same tone.
“As all converts, whether to a religion, love or gardening, find as by magic that though hitherto these hobbies had not seemed to exist, now the whole world is filled with their fury.”