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This is Smiley’s most important work since A Thousand Acres, a brilliant book  that won the Pulitzer Prize

518FZlRRRmL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_Jane Smiley’s The Last Hundred Years trilogy – which ends with Golden Age – is an epic, multi-generational family saga that also tells the story of America from 1920 to 2019.

The words “family saga” could invite comparisons to the worst of pulpy novels, but there is nothing trashy in the strong, clear-eyed and unsentimental way the Pulitzer Prize-winner tells the story of this vast, forceful and growing family.

The story started, just as America did, with a hard-working, simple family farming in the mid-west, and follows them as they step into the modern world.

Volume 3, which runs from 1987 to 2019, is more political and urban than parts 1 and 2  – dealing with war and PTSD, guns, GMO, food fads, 9/11, banking excesses, greed, climate change and family. But it is still the story of the Langdons – smart and hard-working, some of them ethically challenged – as their influence spreads and they enter their fifth generation.

The helpful family tree at the front of the book has expanded, but is somehow less necessary – Smiley is excellent at keeping the characters clear and separate, and telling the story of the family as a whole through the eyes of the key members of each generation.  It’s big, meaty, delicious read by a brilliant writer who seemed destined for just this task.

Corinna Hente

Book published in October 2015. This review first appeared in the Herald Sun’s Weekend magazine.

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