The Owl

Athena’s little black owl, Athene noctua, was created by Sara Richard.

Collections Selections

The members of the Collections Committee, Reappraisal Reading Circle, and Book Group would like to share some new finds with other readers.

Louis Bromfield at home.
Photo: Ohio Department of Natural Resources

The Athenaeum’s fine collection of American works of the first half of the 20th century includes a happy combination in Louis Bromfield: a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, he was also a farmer and early environmentalist. Malabar Farm in Ohio, now a state park, became his home in 1939. Because Bromfield was a screenwriter, he had friends in Hollywood. The Big House at the farm was the site of the 1945 wedding of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

If you want to read only one book by Bromfield, make it Malabar Farm, assuming you’re interested in sustainable agriculture. If fiction is more your thing, try Early Autumn, a saga of the Pentland family of fictional Durham, Massachusetts.

Early Autumn initiated a series of Bromfield novels about the attempted escape of strong women from a pastoral but corrupt past. “The destruction of the natural order,” according to Bromfield’s biographer, David D. Anderson, makes these flights futile.

In their psychological depth, the characters of Early Autumn might remind us of those of Henry James. The strength of the character development in Bromfield’s novel carries even a complex, potentially melodramatic plot to a series of credible resolutions. Skillful foreshadowing heightens the suspense.

We hope you enjoyed this first installment of The Owl. Please check back often for reading recommendations, announcements, and a dash of history.

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