Before I started reading John O’Hara novels about six months ago, I didn’t know much about the state of Pennsylvania but that is no longer the case. What I did know, had to do with my studying of the Revolutionary War period and the US Constitution. And now with the election of President Elect Joseph Biden I am becoming somewhat of an expert.
“A Rage to Live,” like previous novels by Mr. O’Hara takes place during the turn of the century and just before World War 1 and a few decades after. At a time when the state of Pennsylvania, and rich areas like the city of Fort Penn, were experiencing a new wave of immigration. Previously, the population was mainly Dutch and German, and with the new wave they suddenly started seeing more Italians, Irish, and Jews.
The novel follows the life of one Mrs. Grace Tate, previously Grace Caldwell, and like so many female characters written about by Mr. O’Hara, she is one unforgettable character. Born rich into the super wealthy and the powerful Caldwell family, and marrying rich, she is one for breaking norms, sexual norms like cheating on her husband in the back seat of an automobile, and after his death having affairs with married men, and not just wanting to have sex but coming away satisfied and fulfilled.
Mrs. Grace Tate is not in any way to be considered a ‘loose woman.’ She is an independent lady and her sexuality is normal, even if her choice of men might not be the wisest. This is a long novel, over six hundred pages, and at times it did get dull, but overall it is a superbly written… At times an electrifying narrative, and simply proves, once again, that John O’Hara was one of the great American writers of the 20th century.