ANCESTORS by William Maxwell


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Mr. Maxwell's memoir is divided in two parts, the first of which, while threaded with the present, returns to his possibly aristocratic Scottish beginnings and the great-great-great grandfather Henry Maxwell who came to this country in the 18th century and fathered seven sons, one of whom was twice as philoprogenitive. Then there was his other great-great-great grandfather, Stephan England, whose life prompts a considerable segment of this collective family history. England also was a prime-mover in actively spreading the splinter Christian Church along with his friend and its founder, Stone, in resistance to the Calvinist ""clog on Christianity."" However as the remote cedes to the nearer present, namely the grandparents, cousins and attars in Lincoln, Illinois, Maxwell's reminiscence gains appreciably in the warmth of experience lived and half-remembered, and who will not recognize the striped wallpaper with its roses, the horsehair sofa. the dining room table with the extra leaves in use more often than not. And then there's his father and particularly his mother -- she kept the rooms filled with flowers and reassurances until her death during the influenza epidemic of 1917. Those who read Mr. Maxwell's lovely second novel, They, Came Like Swallows, thirty odd years ago will once again be stirred immeasurably by this whole part which again has the strongest and saddest effect. In toto, the book offers a gentle, unhurried, affectionate commemorative which is by no means exclusive -- it should touch on many lives.

Pub Date: June 23rd, 1971
Publisher: Knopf