Grounded in outmoded attitudes about class and distractingly highlighted by outmoded attitudes about race, Alice Adams has not aged well. In his 1922 Pulitzer winner, Booth Tarkington presents a heroine striving to climb the short social ladder of her Midwestern city using only her charms and well-rehearsed mannerisms.
Watching Alice struggle is painful. She has self-awareness sufficient to know she is doing things wrong, but lacks the tools to do them right. And it never seems that the game is worth the candle.
Finally, after watching Alice dither for most of the book, circumstances force her to face reality and make some difficult but intelligent decisions. The book ends on a gloriously hopeful note, which is the most redeeming feature of the story.
Also posted on Rose City Reader.