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I finished 10 North Frederick (1956) this morning on the train to work, and I have mixed emotions about this novel. On the one hand, it is very much a John OHara plot with his penchant for sparkling colloquial dialog among its many characters. It is a novel set in his fictional Gibbsville, Pennsylvania, modeled after his own hometown of Pottsville. On the other hand, for a novel that was awarded the National Book Award in 1956 (my birth year), I felt that the primary protagonist, Joe Chapin, was really pretty one-dimensional; particularly for a fundamentally flawed individual who develops a desire to run for the presidency of the United States. In retrospect, it may well have been OHaras intent to portray Joe Chapin in this light, but I found myself throughout the novel to be much more interested in Joes wife, Edith, and daughter, Ann, as well as several other characters.Simply put, Joseph Benjamin Chapin was safe, maybe too safe. Very much a methodical and entirely predictable Felix Unger type of character, who worked diligently his entire life to provide for his family and to keep his real feelings and emotions in check. The more I think about it this may be exactly the message that OHara is trying to convey through the novel that this behavior was dangerous and even unhealthy. He contrasts this with Joes wife, Edith, who starts out as much like her husband and who is seemingly only interested in social climbing in the small Gibbsville society. Edith does begin to learn, over time, that life does need to be more fully experienced. But it is through Joe and Ediths daughter, Ann, that we see a fully fleshed out character that has a genuine and honest lust for Life. Ann, it seems to me, is the one that ends up teaching both of her parents the most about what life can be or should be about.Frankly, after writing this review I am perhaps coming to realize that there might just be more to this novel than I initially thought, and that maybe I need to give it some more thought and another read sometime soon and see if there is more to the story and moral of Joe Chapins life in John OHaras 10 North Frederick. For the time being, however, this novel gets 3.5 stars of 5.Finally, it is becoming more interesting to me how novels are selected for various literary awards. For example, when looking at John OHaras prodigious output of fiction, I am mystified that novels like Appointment in Samarra, BUtterfield 8, A Rage to Live, From the Terrace, or even Elizabeth Appleton didnt receive any awards. In my humble opinion, each of these novels is arguably better than 10 North Frederick, but what do I know?
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