Louis Auchincloss employs twelve chapters, each devoted to a separate individual, to narrate the Scottish American Carnochan family’s success and upward mobility in East Side Story. The author reveals their business and romantic endeavors from the time of the Civil War through the era of the Vietnam War. The Carnochans are noted for their abilities to envision, sometimes years in advance, their rise in wealth and influence in Newport and New York City society. Since the births in the Carnochan family favor males, the interactions of their usually dominate masculine personalities are intriguing to follow.
The most rebellious deed that the “renegades” of this family can perform is opting to attend Harvard instead of Yale. And, the entry into the New Haven ivy league must be prefaced by prepping at Chelton. Similarly the “mavericks” among the Carnochan go into banking instead of the thread business of law partnerships.
The few females who have active roles in this novel project more individuality than do the men. The Carnochan males somewhat surprisingly often gain the reader’s interest from their affairs of the heart, instead of from their career ambitions. For example, Samuel Carnochan married Alida who had been a nurse in France during World War II. She believes that “clothes are civilization.” She must decide whether she can abide her husband better as a sober reborn Christian or a more enlivened alcoholic; her choice is as unique as her character. And, it is Louise (Loulou) Carnochan, a career nurse who never married, who late in her life reflects on the entire family history. Her conclusion is that “The family instinct for survival was strong indeed.” She also feels that “The Carnochans seemed dedicated to their own permanence.”
Auchincloss provides his readers a view of all the Carnochans with fine attention to history and to detail.