by Jane Smiley
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
This is the first volume of the Last Hundred Years Trilogy, it starts with newlyweds Walter and Rosanna Langdon on an Iowa farm welcoming their first child, Frank, into the world on New Year’s Day 1920. This volume runs up to 1953 and I presume that Smiley’s plan is to eventually finish the three books on New Year’s Eve 2019. By the end of this first book the Langdon’s children are mostly grown and dispersed into the world beyond Iowa. It’s obviously a way to tell the tale of America over a century as well as a family saga. If I have a complaint it is that the fingerposts of history loom up out of the mists of the story and point you from one big historical event to another in a manner that is a bit too obvious in places. But it’s a decent family saga underneath that even if it doesn’t seem to have quite as many layers to it as I felt it needed. It’s not on the same level as something like A Thousand Acres which is a bit disappointing, but only because that book was so good, so deep, so meaningful, and even second best to it is better than a lot of fiction (I also read it numerous years ago and it may have elevated itself in my memory since). I’m very much looking forward to finding out what happens to the Langdon family over the next sixty-seven years.