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A centennial span of the Georgia town of Alexandria provides a microcosm, in sometimes brutally realistic terms, of presumably any quiet, tree shaded small town of the deep South. But what a disillusioning portrait it is, studded with the emotional turmoils, the secret sins, the decline of tradition and principles, the growing cynical acceptance of the dollar mark standards. One would like to refute some of the conclusions implicit in the cross sectioning of many families -- a sordid expose of human frailties with only rare glimpses of compensatory characteristics. Almost alone Anna Anderson Redding emerges as a stalwart symbol of the best of the Old South and the new, clear eyed as to the foibles and falsity of the so-called ideals of southern gentility, the claims of superiority based on antiquity, and yet, with a saving sense of humor even in very old age, holding on to some of those claims as a sort of noblesse oblige. Analogies and parallels are dangerous, but often useful in placing a newcomer in the field of fiction. Comparison of this impressive though sometimes uneven novel with ntree County is almost inevitable. There are many of the strengths of that book, many of the weaknesses. Where ntree Count's provides a tapestry of a frontier mid west, with many of the frontier characteristics, the toughness, the rugged individualism and so on, The Alexandreas gives an equally telling panorama of the South over a comparable period, with a softening of the edges of the frontier spirit, and an inclination to rest on somewhat shoddy laurels of a glamorized past. Overlong and uneven in sustained interest, The Alexandrians has perhaps an edge on Raintree County in the balance between irony and humanity of portraiture. Unpredictable- but watch it.

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1952
Publisher: Putnam