Appointment in Samarra – John O’Hara (1934)


While reading Appointment in Samarra, I was struck by how similar to F Scott Fitzgerald I found it to be. It turns out I am not the first reviewer to reach that conclusion, in fact Fran Liebowitz is quoted as referring to O’Hara as the “real F Scott Fitzgerald”. Samarra is a Depression-era book in the truest sense of the word, with O’Hara tapping into the collective despondency and fear felt by Americans at the time. Follow Julian and Caroline English, the book opens following Julian’s first act of self destruction. He begins by throwing a drink and blacking the eye of one the town’s most influential men. Caroline worries what this will mean for them financially, whereas Julian makes a few feeble attempts to save them, but ultimately lays waste to his own life, one misstep at a time. Once opened, this book is difficult to put down, as the reader becomes engrossed in Julian English’s downfall, as one is engrossed by a devastation that cannot be stopped. Definitely a good read for those who love 20th Century American Literature. I should also mention that this book was a recommendation of The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. 

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