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Democracy: An American Novel (1880)

por Henry Adams

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4101247,159 (3.31)14
An instant bestseller when first published in 1880, Democracy is the quintessential American political novel. At its heart is Madeleine Lee, a young widow who comes to Washington, D.C., to understand the workings of power. Pursued by Silas Ratcliffe, the most influential member of the Senate, Madeleine soon sees enough of power and its corrupting influence to last her a lifetime. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.… (mais)
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I took a break from reading novels of Henry James to take respite with a novel by another Henry (or perhaps by his wife Clover). The plot lighter, the sentences still recognizably 19th century, but more straightforward than those of James. In places, especially toward the beginning, it’s witty, even hilarious, but then it turns serious, even a bit melodramatic. Reading it just a few weeks before the election, the book struck me as a House of Cards set 140 years earlier, and the unfolding plot of this year’s election something like the fulfilment of what Adams prophesied — the corruption of his time becoming only more encompassing. Perhaps not a masterpiece, but a very good read.
So, who was the author? Speaking for Clover: similarities in the prose style to the voice she adopts in her surviving letters. In addition, the book was first published anonymously, while this is not decisive, it might suggest a female authorship. Speaking for Henry: the presence of many of his pet peeves (senators and protectionism, to name just two). So either Clover adopted Henry’s themes, or Henry adopted Clover’s voice. The latter seems to me more probable, especially since the protagonist is an independent-minded woman. ( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
One of the books where I was glad there was no traditional happy ending. ( )
  EmeraldAngel | Jun 3, 2021 |
A Book About the Gilded Age*

Democracy is a cynical book about politics, primarily that of Senators, in the late 1800s, written by a man descended from two Presidents. It tells the story of a rich New York widow, Madeline Lee, who moves to Washington DC to learn about how the government works, and who is disgusted in what she finds. Her main foil is a senator from Illinois, Silas Ratcliffe, who she will discover is corrupt and power-hungry.

Set in the years after the Civil War, Democracy is full of interesting pictures of live in the capitol before the modern era, where people rode horses for transportation and where the society scene is reminiscent of the Old South. But it also shows the dark side of politics in a way that makes you think not much has changed since. I didn't particularly enjoy this book for its plot, and Adams at times seems contradictory in his opinions of politics, condemning the corruption but not the corrupted (perhaps a "hate the sin, love the sinner" approach).

Not a difficult read, although it has many literary and historical references that most people (myself included) will need google to understand.

* - I've had to set my themed reading list aside for now, as I'm taking a couple literature classes this summer through a state program that provides free tuition for Texas residents over 55. This novel is assigned for my 19th Century American Literature class focused on the Gilded Age. ( )
  skavlanj | Oct 14, 2020 |
A fine and entertaining book that shows that political corruption and incompetence are nothing new at all. At the time I finished the book about 373 other LibraryThing readers had read the book, but I'm the only one who read this dilapidated old paperback edition from 1961--don't use my entry as an indication of popularity. As I understand it, this book was tremendously popular in its day--1880 publication. The cover on my book says that "Gladstone, the English Prime Minister, advised everyone one to read it." The cover also reports, ""The public, with appetite whetted by the secrecy surrounding its authorship and the highly inflammable nature of its subject matter clamored so vividly for copies that countless unauthorized editions were published on both sides of the Atlantic. This wholesale piracy, Adams declared, was the single real triumph of his life." ( )
  rsairs | Oct 23, 2019 |
a very entertining novel by the author of The Education of Henry Adams. Adams, grandson of J. Q. Adams is the perfect author to examine the subjects of love and power in the Capitol. ( )
  lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
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Like O, and the Clinton-era Primary Colors before it, Democracy was an anonymously published roman à clef, causing a stir in political circles when it appeared in 1880. Unlike those authors' anonymity, however, the secret of Adams' authorship held for 35 years. [...] Democracy, though distinctly an artifact of its historical moment, boasts some true artistry.
adicionada por elenchus | editarslate.com, David Greenberg (Apr 20, 2011)
 
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“…lurking in the breast of every American Senator…[is the idea that] democracy, rightly understood, is the government of the people, by the people, and for the benefit of Senators.”
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An instant bestseller when first published in 1880, Democracy is the quintessential American political novel. At its heart is Madeleine Lee, a young widow who comes to Washington, D.C., to understand the workings of power. Pursued by Silas Ratcliffe, the most influential member of the Senate, Madeleine soon sees enough of power and its corrupting influence to last her a lifetime. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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