An infinitely attractive human being—a great lady, American-style—comes alive in Conrad Richter’s wonderful new novel.
She is Miss Alexandria Morley, and in her eighties—a doughty warrior against creeping modernity and mediocrity. She has the warmest of hearts. She is the coolest of strategists. It is a joy to see her do battle.
Secure in her Victorian mansion, in “her” Pennsylvania town, flying her flag in defense of principle and old-time decorum, she takes on and outclasses the mighty coal company (she’s caught them cheating on taxes); civilizes her roughhewn young doctor (good character is no license for crudity); copes patiently (family obligations are sacred) with the poor old cousin who is a tidal wave of garrulous idiocy; stands firm against the poisonous cousin who is a knot of destructive envy; puts herself gently at the service of a sweet young cousin who cannot decide among her eligible beaux.
All around her, in her house, in her memories, the past swirls. But Miss Alexandria lives in the now. She hopes, out of courtesy to her heirs, to die when her stocks are up. She tells the truth to those who can bear it—most especially to herself.
She has learned, from the Southern belle who was her mother, to love the graces of life—and, from the mining potentate who was her father, to give no quarter to foolish circumstances. Even on her deathbed, Miss Alexandria, who has warned the officious clergyman that she won’t have anyone praying aloud over her, wins a gallant victory.
Like her dear ones and her adversaries, her servants and her fellow townspeople, the reader will take his hat off to the Aristocrat.
She is the last of her kind.
About Conrad Richter
Conrad Richter was born in Pennsylvania, the son, grandson, nephew, and great-nephew of clergymen. He was intended for the ministry, but at thirteen he declines a scholarship and left preperatory school for high school, from which he graduated at fifteen. After graduation, he went to work. His family on his mother's side was identified with the early American scene, and from boyhood on he was saturated with tales and the color of Eastern pioneer days. In 1928 he and his small family moved to New Mexico, where his heart and mind were soon caputred by the Southwest. From this time on he devoted himself to fiction. The Sea of Grass and The Trees were awarded the gold medal of the Societies of Libraries of New York University in 1942. The Town received the Pulitzer Prize in 1951, and The Waters of Kronos won the 1960 National Book Award for fiction. His other novels included The Fields (1946), The Lady (1957), A Simple Honorable Man (1962), The Grandfathers (1964), A Country of Strangers (1966; a companion to The Light in the Forest), and The Aristocrat, published just before his death in 1968.