This novel by Margaret Ayer Barnes is the final book I’ve read for the Book Awards Reading Challenge. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1931. I had never actually heard of Years of Grace, or its author. This was a totally delightful and readable book.
It tells the story of Jane Ward Carver. Jane is born to a wealthy Chicago family in the late 1800’s. Years of Grace follows the first fifty years of Jane’s life. She matures from schoolgirl, to debutante, to wife, mother and grandmother. As Jane grows, the world changes around her. Her husband fights in the Spanish American War; her son-in-law in World War I.
The story is told through Jane’s relationships with others. The sections of the book are titled with other people’s names. Jane is a proper young woman, whose life is determined by her parents’ wishes. When her parents disapprove of her first boyfriend, she is allowed to attend Bryn Mawr College for two years; then she must return home and become a proper debutante. When Jane does marry, she spends all her summers vacationing at the summer home of her in-laws. She maintains strong friendships with her childhood friends, and rarely ventures outside her social circle.
Jane is, however, a principled, passionate, intelligent woman. She struggles to reconcile her feelings with her familial and social obligations. Jane is, of course, perplexed by the behavior of her children as they grow older.
This novel is especially interesting in its depiction of a vanished time. It is beautifully written, and I highly recommend it.
Published in hardcover-Houghton Mifflin-1930