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Years of Grace

by Margaret Ayer Barnes

Years of Grace is the story of forty years and the changes wrought in two generations. Set in Chicago, the novel focuses on Jane Ward, daughter of a socially prominent family, who grows up in the repressed, pseudo-genteel society of the 1880s and 1890s. In her youth, indeed, throughout her life, Jane is a model of decorum. She refuses to marry a young artist whom she loves, because her parents disapprove. She accepts a family-approved husband because it is expected of her. She avoids an affair later in life because it might disgrace husband and family. Twenty years later, Jane's daughter Cicily encounters the identical decisions, but being a product of the war years, when marriage is fast and divorce easy, Cicily cares little for reputation, and lives her life accordingly. Through it all. Mrs. Barnes maintains a scrupulous neutrality, presenting each life as a reflection of the times, never presuming to judge or moralize. If a change in attitude is apparent between generations, it represents only a portion of the total evolvement of society during the forty year period; and Mrs. Barnes reflects in minute detail, changes in fashion, architecture, and interior decor as well as history and social conditions. The author's first novel, Years of Grace won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1931.

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