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

1987 Pulitzer prize for Fiction Winner

A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor


Publisher: Vintage - first published by Alfred A. Knopf

Length: 209 pages

About: Old father’s remarriage causes chaos

Style: 1st person

Where: US (Memphis, Nashville & New York)

When: 1960s


Publisher’s synopsis:

During the twilight of a Sunday afternoon in March, New York book editor Phillip Carver receives an urgent phone call from each of his older, unmarried sisters. They plead with Phillip to help avert their widower father's impending remarriage to a younger woman. Hesitant to get embroiled in a family drama, he reluctantly agrees to go back south, only to discover the true motivation behing his sisters' concern. While there, Phillip is forced to confront his domineering siblings, a controlling patriarch, and flood of memories from this troubled past.




The courtship and remarriage of an old widower is always made more difficult when middle-aged children are involved -- especially when there are unmarried daughters.




The present resonates with the past, but history is not a sort of monosodium glutamate, an instant, all-purpose intensifier of experience. PETER TAYLOR'S fiction is full of rewards. It is hard for a reviewer to do justice to the pleasures of understatement.

New York Times  Marilynne Robinson 19th October 1986


Not so good:

If it is a familiar story, it is one that is well crafted, except in the introduction of a family friend, Alex, who seems intended to act as some sort of measure of normality. He fails both as a character and as a device. The novel is also too drawn out to maintain the intensity of the incestuous and murderous childhood longings, which are so successfully drawn behind the middle-aged facades; and the pace slows too far to sustain the final ironies.

The Times, Gillian Greenwood, 16th October 1987

About the author

Peter Matthew Hillsman Taylor (January 8, 1917 - November 2, 1994) 

Taylor spent his early childhood in Nashville. The family moved to St. Louis in 1926 when Taylor's father, lawyer Matthew Hillsman Taylor, became president of the General American Life Insurance Company. In St. Louis, Taylor attended the Rossman School and St. Louis Country Day School. In 1932, the family moved to Memphis, where his father established a law practice. Taylor graduated from Central High School in Memphis in 1935.


He wrote his first published piece while there, an interview with actress Katharine Cornell. After a gap year in which he traveled to England, Taylor enrolled at Southwestern College (now Rhodes College) in Memphis in 1936, studying under the critic Allen Tate. Tate encouraged Taylor to transfer to Vanderbilt University, which he later left to continue studying with the great American critic and poet John Crowe Ransom at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, along with the poet Robert Lowell. 


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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.

Extract from New York Times to view full article...

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