Golden Age, Jane Smiley, author, Lorelei King, narrator
This is the third installment in a three part series about the Langdon family. The hundred years begins in the year 1920; this book begins in 1987, and takes us up to the future in 2019. For me, the best one in the series was the first, “Some Luck”. I did make a valiant attempt to read this one, but I failed. I even skipped to the end to see if there was something taking place in the future to hold my interest, but alas, there was not.
It is a major feat of accomplishment if you can keep track of all of the characters, the old and the new. Even taking advantage of the family tree printed in the book, it is a challenge. In addition, if you have any interest in, or can keep track of, all of the details right down to what they ate at meals, you are a better “man” than I am. After listening to more than 8 hours of this more than 17 ½ hour audio, I simply gave up. I felt like I was reading a propaganda treatise, disguised as a novel. It simply got too tedious, its politics leaned too far left, and the narrator, though she did an admirable job, could not hold me anymore than the story did.
Over the century, the family suffers through all of the warts and foibles of any family, including the ups and downs of society’s cycles and pivots from one crisis to another, from imbalances in political powers, to economic failures, to bias in the news without skipping a beat. Every sort of societal issue is experienced in this family: divorce, homosexuality, infidelity, secrets, lies, anti-Semitism, mental illness, evil corporations, childhood Cancer, gun control, PTSD, the mistakes of the Iraq war, the dangers of climate change and more. This should give everyone the idea that the author is a liberal and, indeed, she has put forth every liberal view she could while trashing every opposing view from the right with negative terms or implications. All I could finally do was scream, ENOUGH! It went on and on ad nauseam. Perhaps one vignette about each family would have been manageable, but there were simply too many about each member of each family. Did I really need to know that the grilled cheese was made with Emmenthaler Swiss or Black Forest Ham? Okay, so the characters and details did have to be part of the book, but did they have to be dissected?
I ask this question seriously: Is the new measure of the value of a book the number of liberal issues that can be put forth in the maximum amount of pages? The book is too long, there are too many characters and aside from the series being a family saga taking place over 100 years, it simply did not get better with each volume and seemed to have no redeeming feature for me except for its historic content which was well researched, but it was presented with too many, of what I can only assume, are the author’s personal, political views. On a positive note, the characters were very well developed, even if forgettable, because of the number of them.
Finally, after awhile, although I rarely ever give up on a book, this one just became too much for me. I simply did not enjoy listening to it or being harangued by the overwhelming, sometimes outright and sometimes subtle, criticisms of the views of those on the right, of the Republicans, while the views of those on the left, the Democrats, were extolled unmercifully.