by Victor Sondheim ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 1, 1981
A surprisingly diverting display-case buster (751 pp.)--which sets up a family of five siblings on its way from 1932 to a possibly infinite trade-paperback future; this installment begins with FDR's first inaugural address and is lopped off at his second. Iowa banker Bradford Sinclair, faced with bankruptcy and dishonor, shoots himself, leaving a wife, who never regains her wits, and five children who are about to fan out all over America's 1930s. Brad Jr., with one year of Yale Law to go, fast-talks his way into the new Roosevelt administration, working for colorful General Hugh S. Johnson (who hatched the Blue Eagle). Jeremy, struggling to write in Manhattan, follows his dream of cultural excitement to Germany--where he will report on a revolt of Brown Shirts, interview top Nazis, and visit Dachau (no one but Communists will print his findings); he then flees to Russia, falls for an ex-aristocrat, and interviews Stalin (who just might have spared Shostakovich because of Jeremy). Gordon freight-cars his hobo way to West Point, graduates (despite barbarous treatment), and serves General ""Vinegar Joe"" Stilwell in China. Little sister Julie is molested by the awful uncle she's been forced to live with, flees with a giant-hearted family of Okie tenant farmers, marries silent but sterling Floyd, has three children, and survives the dust bowl, exploitative farmers, and near-starvation. (At the close, her siblings haven't as yet traced her). And Pamela, deserted by the man responsible for her pregnancy, has an abortion and is brought by brother Brad to Washington--where she rises in the government-worker ranks and eventually marries a flamboyant but weak would-be newspaper tycoon from a rock-ribbed Republican first family. (Brad will meanwhile marry playgirl Sally, a terrible cook and great mother.) All of Sondheim's real personages are plausibly within the media perceptions of the times--FDR jaunty and shrewd, etc.--and his technique seems to consist of typing with one hand and manipulating a Times microfilm machine with the other. So those who were around then will enjoy the details (NRA parades, for instance), and family-sage lovers will find this above-average fun.
Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1981
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1981
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