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John Dos Passos

U.S.A.



This is one of my favourite books of all time. It tells the story of twelve characters across the historical development of American society during the start of the 20th century. It’s quite interesting as it has four narrative styles, fictional narratives which is the main content of the book as it follows each of the twelve characters. There are also collages of newspaper clippings, a newsreel and short biographies of public figures at the time. The public figures include people such as Teddy Roosevelt, Eugene Debs and Henry Ford to name a few. There is also a fourth style which is a stream of consciousness by Dos Passos called ‘Camera Eye’.

I enjoyed this book so much although it did take me a while to read. I love how it follows each character from their childhood and it weaves their stories together. I found it quite easy to follow along with each story and recognise when the main characters and minor characters appeared in various stories. Usually, in books with lots of switching stories I find it becomes hard to keep track of all the interweaving stories.

There was also a lot of depth in all the main characters as they navigated this constantly evolving American society. The historical context and crossovers of characters across all three books created such an immersive world which wasn’t that far from reality. The way it used the various narrative styles to directly relate the story to real history worked so well.

I would highly recommend this book. I found it so immersive and enjoyable to read. It allows you to get a personal insight into American society during the early 20th century and an intimate look at how life may have been. It’s quite a long read, but so worth it.