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Man in the 1950s struggles to find a work life balance and learns to accept the aftermath of his war experiences The book wastimely than I expected The title has become a symbol of conformity I really have no idea how that happened since the book isn t about that at all. First published in 1955, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit was the debut novel by the American writer and reporter Sloan Wilson The novel performed very well on its release and was promptly adapted for the screen with Gregory Peck as the central character, Tom Rath Even though the book may have fallen out of fashion since then, its title The Man in the Gray Suit remains symbolic of certain kind of middle class conformity in 1950s America, namely the need for a man to submit to the rat race in pursuit of the American Dream Fans of the series Mad Men and the work of Richard Yates will find much to appreciate in Gray Flannel and yet Wilson s protagonist ishumane than Don Draper,likeable and fairer in his dealings with others.To read my review, please visit LOVED this I m a sucker for anything 1950s, and this was a great look at the depressing conformity of that era My dad recommended this book to me after I raved about the AMC show Mad Men It s pretty clear that the show s writers took the plot almost directly from this book Both deal with the same dynamic War hero husbands quietly dealing with the mental fall out of WW2, housewives stifled by a life of cleaning and baking, and what happens when no one is allowed to talk about how they re really feeling One thing I thought was really interesting The man character, Tom Rath, is trying to get ahead in his career His big break comes when he s asked to write a speech for the head of a broadcasting network, who is trying to build a foundation for mental health Tom drafts several bland versions of the speech, all while having traumatic flashbacks to his time as a paratrouper Somehow, it never occurs to him that HE is the example his speech needs No one in the book ever makes the connection that the mental health foundation could be used to treat the thousands of men coming back from war with major issues Instead, it all has to be bottled up and ignored dressed up in a gray flannel suit.
One of the iconic American novels of the 1950s, thanks to its penetrating portrait of postwar disaffection in the New England suburbs The novel is really one of two halves, with the first half far and away the better one Tom Rath, 33 year old former paratrooper turned reluctant corporate drone, is blindly stumbling through all manner of life crises, both internal and external, yet there is no one with the time or the empathy to listen, really listen to his cri de coeur Exceptionally strong in its depiction of middle class WASP discontent, it is no wonder that the book gave rise to one of the representative personas of the time as the writer himself notes, the name of Tom Rath is now well forgotten, yet the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit lives on If, for example, you are a fan of Don Draper s tangled existence in Mad Men, make no mistake because right here is the original model This ground was later well trod by the likes of Cheever and Yates and Updike, accomplished chroniclers all of Yankee suburbia, but Wilson was among the very first and quite as good as any of the rest On top of that, there are the flashbacks to the war which, in laying out the currently conflicted character of Tom, play such an essential role in the story Wilson gives us a blistering and surely autobiographical account of American GIs island hopping in the Pacific, plunging into grisly hand to hand combat with the suicidally desperate Japanese This is vivid, thrilling stuff that Mailer or James Jones would have been proud of And the love affair in Rome with Maria, which has such reverberations through Tom s later life that too is outlined with the greatest delicacy and restraint Clearly, the author s own war experiences made him, soaking right into the marrow of his novel although I ve read that Wilson wrote the book for his wife, it nonetheless reads like some kind of personal exorcism After the fireworks of the first half, where Tom comes across as one messed up former GI having no end of trouble trying to settle into civilian life, even after the best part of a decade after all that we get a thoroughly disappointing second half which, if not exactly phony, is certainly too pat, with all kinds of distractions and sideplots that have little direct bearing on the travails of Tom In direct contrast to the intensity and fierce focus of the first half where Tom was the sole proprietor of the novel the author spreads himself out in the second half and spreads himself far too thin in the process There is way too much exegesis and background into the characters of Betsy, Hopkins and even the judge Bernstein, for crying out loud There are make believe problems and facile solutions all wrapped up with ribbons, contrived with all the guile and believability of a Hollywood happy ending Basically at some point in the second half, I had trouble believing that this was the same book I was reading Regardless of what Wilson says about his novel in the epilogue, the conclusion seems unavoidable that he had a crisis of conviction, resulting in the evident weakness of execution And yet, quite surprisingly, he manages to make the narrative soar again towards the end, so fully imagined is Rath, so much does the reader feel for him and with him, a destination that Betsy arrives at rather belatedly but for the Rath couple, as the saying goes, it is certainly a case of better late than never Four stars then, in spite of its multiple narrative failings it s not at all difficult to see why this book touched such a chord during a decade that is now best known for its conformity and mindless consumerism Tom Rath remains an anguished voice of protest against the vaunted American dream. I didn t think I was going to like this book to be honest, but I was pleasantly surprised by how sucked into the story I was I really liked the vibe and the insight into the 1950s It is really crazy to draw the comparisons between then and now, I don t think the majority of today s world could handle what happened in the everyday back then.Great Read They drank a lot of cocktails in the 1950 s. Whenever I watch The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit with Gregory Peck, I say, Boy, it d be nice to read the original novel by Sloan Wilson sometime, wouldn t it and when I at last came across an old 1956 printing in the local library basement sale, this old paperback shouldered its way immediately to the top of my reading list I was not disappointed It is an enjoyable and moving five star work.The basics of the novel a combat veteran haunted by memories of the men he killed, and by the brief, desperate love he found in Italy, tries to turn his mousy career and his dispirited marriage around by joining the rat race are familiar to anyone who has seen the film, so there is little need to cover them here The novel, of course, isfinely grained in its telling detail than any film, and such detail is lifelike and good, and ultimately moving.On the one hand, Wilson s narrative voice can be urbane and gently wry After spending most of the first page describing a question mark shaped crack in the wall of the couple s dingy house, for example, the text reports with calm irony that this suspicious shape d oes not seem symbolic to Tom and Betty, nor even amusing and in case we still don t get it, another nudge points out that everyone else cannot help staring at the thing Sentences of the offhand It was fashionable that summer to be cynical about one s employers variety are a similar joy.Coupled with such minor authorial games, however, is a rich investigation of the mind of ex paratrooper and now vaguely wary husband Tom Rath During the Second World War, in close combat, Rath killed seventeen men a fact he simply hadn t thought about for quite a few years rather than a thing he had deliberately tried to forget Mm hmm And yet, as he thinks of those years, His mind goes blank Suddenly the word Maria flashe s into it and yet, at least this early on, all we will get is that single word, and then the narrative tacks intriguingly away.Wilson will givein due time, of course He will show us Rath s bleak fatalism of December 44, when after two years of fighting in Europe his unit is to be sent to the Pacific, and he knows knows that his luck will run out, and in another jump, or two at the most, he will be dead The future he will never see, the cold beer he will never drink, the rare steaks he will never eat, the lovely wife waiting at home, to whom he will never make love again they do not seem real, while only the vulnerable and passionate Maria makes life at all palatable And of course, just before shipping out to the Pacific Theater, he learns that there may be a childThe friend killed by Rath s grenade, the unacknowledged longing for Maria and his abandoned child, his own absent father shell shocked in the First World War and then likely suicided in the 20s, the ancient grandmother with her tales of family glory, the faithful wife who wants to see him happy and successful the introspective Tom Rath is pushed and pulled by impetuses he struggles to understand And if he is to start living again, truly living, he will have to face the truth, as he has been avoiding for so long.Is the ending a little too pat Perhaps Certainly Betty Rath, after a revelation that could indeed finish many a marriage, ends up being an astoundingly good sport about it Would Tom be as forgiving, one might wonder, if Betty, as convinced as he had been of his imminent death, had found comfort as he did in Rome Maybe at this stage of the novel he might Wilson does not quite raise the question, however unfortunate, as even a few lines would be worthwhile.Nevertheless, the conclusion may indeed be believable Betty Rath, after all, begins to realize that she has never had a clue about even a tenth of what the man sleeping beside her all these years has suffered, and her sympathy is touching, as are her husband s final simple and heartfelt, almost awestruck professions of love Tom Rath in the end has nothing to hide, and for the first time in years he feels not cynical and bitter but happy, within himself and within his marriage After delving so believably into the mind of a privileged college boy turned killer, then turned corporate drone, and finally turned balanced human being, Sloan Wilson brings The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit to a conclusion that is life affirming and even heartwarming. *Download Book ⇤ The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit ⇹ Here Is The Story Of Tom And Betsy Rath, A Young Couple With Everthing Going For Them Three Healthy Children, A Nice Home, A Steady Income They Have Every Reason To Be Happy, But For Some Reason They Are Not Like So Many Young Men Of The Day, Tom Finds Himself Caught Up In The Corporate Rat Race What He Encounters There Propels Him On A Voyage Of Self Discovery That Will Turn His World Inside Out At Once A Searing Indictment Of Coporate Culture, A Story Of A Young Man Confronting His Past And Future With Honesty, And A Testament To The Enduring Power Of Family, The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit Is A Deeply Rewarding Novel About The Importance Of Taking Responsibility For One S Own Life It s difficult not to compare this book with Richard Yates Revolutionary Road, published just a few years later Both books take on the anxieties of suburban Connecticut in the early mid 1950s Both protagonists are traumatized war veterans now adjusting to life as a cog in a white collar machine, to the subsuming of their identities and ambitions into generic head of household responsibility But the books are also very different from one another The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit is solidly middlebrow in construction and tone It is not written with the lush craft that Yates brings to bear in Revolutionary Road But despite its sentimental strains and too pat resolution of some of its plot threads, it is in many ways it is asensitive and thoughtful story than Yates s Yates careens from sardonic critique to tragedy, and his unsympathetic, self absorbed protagonist Frank Wheeler encourages the reader to detachment rather than identification Wilson s book, in contrast, is sentimental and gentle His protagonist, Tom Rath, is an externally mild everyman whose whole consciousness at times seems focused on suppressing his inner turmoil for the benefit of the people around him The anger hinted at by Rath s name rarely comes to the surface Like many men of his generation, Rath carries memories of absolutely brutal wartime experiences the flashbacks to these are among the book s most affecting passages and also like many men, he makes persistent efforts to forget them But their influence drives Rath s obsessive pursuit of stability and security for his family Most fascinating about The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit is this Wilson seems to attribute the postwar urge to conformity to a kind of collective PTSD, the desperate need of the men who went through unspeakable horrors in the war to forget them and impose some kind of normalcy on their lives suburban order as a pendulum swing reaction to wartime chaos.