The Turmoil Reviewed

I told you a couple weeks ago about Matt Kahn, who is blogging about “100 Years. 94 Books.” His goal is to read and review every book to top the year’s best sellers list at Publisher’s Weekly since 1913. You can visit Kahn’s blog for a complete list of the 94 titles (some, like Gone With the Wind, topped the list in more than one year).

This week he published his review of The Turmoil (1915), the first of Tarkington’s two titles to top the PW list. His impressions are pretty favorable. Here are some snippets:

Overall, The Turmoil has aged well. The relationships between the members of the Sheridan family are true to life and easily accessible, even after all this time. However, the attitudes the characters hold in regard to romantic relationships and the old wealth vs. new wealth are strictly representative of their time.

Why haven’t I heard of it? That’s a good question. At the time of writing this, I’ve already finished reading Tarkington’s Seventeen (the bestseller of 1916). Judging from these two (very different) novels, I feel that the reason is that they are very much period pieces. … As I define it, a period piece is a story in which the attitudes of the characters are deeply entrenched in that specific time and place. For example, if we look at Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the film adaptation Apocalypse Now, even with the change in the specifics of the setting (replace colonized Congo with occupied Vietnam, mercantile with military), the characters’ attitudes and values are not anachronistic. The same cannot be said of Tarkington’s characters. The characters are still accessible and coherent, but they can only be understood as products of their time.

Should I read it? If you don’t mind period pieces, then yes. The Turmoil is fun, emotional, and well-written.

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