Mary’s Neck Pleasant as Ocean Breeze in August

Mary’s Neck is a breezy, lighthearted account of a midwestern family’s summer at a New England seashore resort patronized by “the right sort of people” at the height of the Jazz Age.

Mr. Massey is a jovial businessman who wants to be friends with everyone. Mrs. Massey longs be a leading family in Mary’s Neck. Enid and Clarissa are primarily interested in securing the society of boys with sports cards, hefty allowances, and good prospects.

The Masseys’ wear their aspirations like targets painted on their shirts. People can’t help taking shots at them.

The Masseys are regularly cheated by the shrewd Yankees they think so provincial. They fare no better at the hands of those they consider socially prominent.

Booth Tarkington plays this story strictly for laughs, and he provides plenty of them.

The adolescents are adolescent, which is always funny to all but the adolescents. Mrs. Massey is too dim to be funny, but Mr. Massey is sharp enough to learn to pass the losing ticket on to someone else. Tarkington keeps his tongue firmly in his cheek throughout the book.

Mary’s Neck is a pleasant diversion for those days when all you want is a laugh at someone else’s expense.

Mary’s Neck
Booth Tarkington
Doubleday, Doran, 1932
318 pages
 
©2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni