Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Main Street is the kind of novel you can't just read today like it was written yesterday. You have to look at it from the lens of the time period. I'd call it a zeitgeist novel, but it represents a very specific time (the early 1900s), making it feel dated in a sense. But it's still good all the same. Sinclair Lewis could do no wrong.
The story concerns a woman named Carol Kennicott who is trapped in the wrong time and the wrong location. I don't mean that in a sci-fi sense, but rather that she's a woman with great ambitions caught in a town that doesn't want to do anything but stay the same. This affects Carol greatly as she deeply wants to do something with her life. But after getting married and having a baby, those ambitions get squashed every chance she gets as the denizens of Gopher Prairie don't want change. They want things the way they are. Carol ends up feeling smothered.
Why this book can't be seen as anything more than a time capsule is because you can tell that Sinclair Lewis had his eyes toward the future. But he couldn't see far enough to make the novel more damning toward the residents of Gopher Prairie. You get a sense that Carol is sometimes silly and not committed to her plight to change Main Street, and we don't so much as sympathize with her as we merely shrug our shoulders at the idea that she was just born too early. Her day would soon come in only a few decades.
That said, the book is still funny and a joy to read, even if it meanders a bit. If you like Sinclair Lewis, I'd say give it a go. It was that first novel that really put him on the map.
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