2007: 95. Appointment in Samarra

“Our story opens in the mind of Luther L. (L for LeRoy) Fliegler, who is lying in bed, not thinking of anything, but just aware of sounds, conscious of his own breathing, and sensitive to his own heartbeats.”

Appointment in Samarra, John O’Hara

This was our July book club book, suggested by Erin.  Like always with the book club, the classics wear better than the new books, and this one was a great choice - not only a good read, but a book that led to lots of discussion (which is not always the case, believe me).  The book, which is the story of a town in Pennsylvania and the different classes therein, mostly focuses on the story of Julian English, an upper-middle class man who seems to have everything, but whose life falls apart over a three day period around Christmas.  Very Richard Cory,  and very Fitzgerald-esque (a comparison O’Hara probably would have despised, but on that cannot be avoided).  

The book isn’t perfect - there are parts that really didn’t work for me - especially the stream of consciousness chapter, and the entire character of Al Grecco, the hoodlum, but what worked was great - the book was absolutely easy to read and modern in its language, and the characters that worked were absolutely real.  What really got to me, though, was the way he wrote about women.  Caroline English was the real tragic figure to my mind - Julian got no more than he deserved, but the chapter on Caroline’s life and why she ended up with Julian broke my heart.  I also appreciated his honestness about sex, for men and women - who knew the women of the twenties were so free?  The most moving part to me, for whatever reason, though, was the whole section about the sad-sack girls and the way society treated them (pg. 83ish in the Vintage edition). It really hit me how limited these women’s lives were, how dependent on a man to give them a life to live or condemn them to being an outcast.  More Wharton, than Fitzgerald, there, but it was one of my favorite parts of the book.

Recommended for: People who like Fitzgerald, and the types of books where people cause their own ruin, despite themselves; people interested in a clear-eyed near contemporaneous satire of small town America in the 1920’s with interesting characters to boot

Date/Place Completed: 6/29/07; Stuck in National Airport

Categories: Fiction; Book Club; Modern Library Top 100

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017