THE FIRES OF SPRING by James A. Michener


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The Pulitzer Prize winner- with his memorable Tales of the South Pacific -- is not an author to be passed over lightly. Nor does his new book belie his claim to a rare gift of yarn spinning and writing vigorous, unhackneyed prose. But- and it is a big but- the enthusiasts of the earlier book will find little that captures that appeal in this new book. He has done, what so many young authors seem to need to do, analyzed the painful growing pains of adolescence almost ad nauseam. To be sure, Michener is a gifted story teller, and his new book has the pace and drama only too often absent. But basically, it is a long-spun story of youth growing up. David Harper has a unique background. He was brought up in a Poor Farm, where his aunt, who grudgingly supported him, held a job, and pinched pennies for her own future security. David had no self-consciousness or shame about his domestic background. In fact, he loved the old men whose idol he was; for them, he lived the potential futures they had missed. And for most readers this will be the memorable part of the book. One is taken into the life stream of the poorhouse- and, extraordinarily enough, Michener has succeeded in doing this without descending to maudlin sentimentality. Then David gets another chance, a step up, which leads to a second escape, and the lure of the stage, although only the itinerant stage of the Chautauqua. He's had two summers schooling in the hard school of an amusement park, where it is assumed that the operators will make their lagniappe on the side, by some crookedness or other. Then he has a glimpse of a cleaner, straighter world, before he is caught in the abortive passion of his thwarted love for Mona, and the intricacies of the Chautauqua life. Schooling- college- an urge to make his own road to literary success- provide a thread of purpose through the often sordid by-paths of his summer money-making ventures, and his explorations into sultry passion. There are unpalatable bits- and others in clearcut drama that balance them off. But the book seems overlong in its exploration of the intricacies of adolescence and growing up, a singularly devious route to maturity. A book to assess for a particular market, rather than to accept on the author's earlier achievement.
Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1949
ISBN: 0345483057
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1948


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