Second Generation (Magill's Literary Annual 1979)
Howard Fast in his sequel to The Immigrants offers an appealing view of life in this century prior to World War II. While Second Generation will never be considered a great novel, it is nonetheless a well-written and absorbing work of great feeling. Set primarily in San Francisco in the 1930’s, it begins at the point where The Immigrants leaves off, and follows some of the same characters in their later lives. While The Immigrants is primarily the story of the life of Dan Lavette, Second Generation is exactly what the title suggests: an account of the lives of the second generation of the Lavettes. The action centers around Dan Lavette’s three children, Barbara, Tom (by his first wife, Jean), and Joseph (by his second wife, May Ling).
But Second Generation is also a novel of coming to terms with life. Fast passes few judgments on his characters throughout the novel, instead simply presenting their actions and their emotions. We see Dan Lavette—who in the first novel left his aristocratic and wealthy wife Jean and his own hardwon fortune for May Ling, his Chinese mistress—amass a second fortune, lose May Ling, and return to Jean; but there are practically no judgments. Fast gives to Barbara, Dan’s daughter, the words that sum up his rationale for this approach: “It’s like waking up after you’ve been asleep for a long time, and what happens then is that black and white are no longer black...
(The entire section is 1564 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1979)
Booklist. LXXV, September 1, 1978, p. 26.
Kirkus Reviews. XLVI, August 1, 1978, p. 824.
Library Journal. CIII, November 15, 1978, p. 2350.
Publisher’s Weekly. CCXIV, July 31, 1978, p. 92.
(The entire section is 20 words.)