Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Prize Winning Fiction
Prize Winning Fiction

1958 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Winner

A Death in the Family by James Agee


Publisher: Penguin

Length: 310 pages

About: Family devastated by father’s death

Style: 3rd person

Where: US (Tennessee)

When: 1915



Publisher’s synopsis:

Driving back home to Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1915 after tending to a family emergency, Jay Follet is killed in a car accident. He leaves behind a wife and two small children, who must come to terms with his absence as the days after his death slowly unfold. Agee patterned the story closely after his own life, focusing on a boy who is the same age that he was when his father died. The narrative shifts from one perspective to another, including the young widow and her two children and her atheistic father and the dead man’s alcoholic brother, to name just a few, in an attempt to capture the ways in which one person’s loss immediately and powerfully affects everyone around.



She saw that the front pillow had sagged a little, and set it right. She pulled down the shade. She turned out the light and dropped to her knees, facing the bed, and closed her eyes. She touched her forehead, her breastbone, her left shoulder and her right shoulder, and clasped her hands.




An utterly individual and original of the most deeply worked out expressions of human feeling that I have ever read.

Alfred Kazin, New York Times Book Review


Not so good:

….somehow beneath the elaborate poetic technique and the dreary inconsequence of his style, he understands how to wring the heart, and, most important of all, how to convince us that his characters matter; their tragedy is ours!

Times Literary Supplement 22nd August 1958


About the author

Born in Tennessee in 1909 and graduated from Harvard University. His renowned study of Alabama sharecroppers during the Depression, Let Us Now Priase Famous Men, appeared in 1941. Agee was known for his movie reviews and screenplays, and published a volume of poetry and a novella, as well. He died in 1955, two years before this major work of fiction was published and won the Pullitzer prize.


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Age guide: 12




Novels by same author:




The movie, All The Way Home (1963), was adapted by Philip H. Reisman, Jr. from the Agee novel and the Mosel play. It was filmed in the same neighborhood where Agee grew up in Knoxville. Produced by David Susskind and directed by Alex Segal, it stars Robert Preston, Jean Simmons and Pat Hingle.







2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner

It's a massive day in arts and journalism because the 100th annual Pulitzer Prize winners were just announced, and there's a big surprise. 2015's best artistic and nonfiction writing across 21 categories were recognized during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York City. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Hebert Bayward Swope, a reporter for The New York World, in 1916. (And if you're as big a fan of Newsies as I am, that paper should ring a bell, but try to think of it more positively.)

The major prize for book nerds, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press), a legitimate surprise, if you've been paying attention to the book nerd and industry buzz. The feeling around the prize in the last few months would have you putting all your hard-earned cash down on A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara to take home the award, but that's why you should never gamble. Viet Thanh Nguyen is no less deserving, and moreover, it's his debut novel, which makes it such a wonderful win.

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