Compared with the poetry, little critical attention has been paid to Hughes’s prose, and the novel Tambourines to Glory has yet to receive serious critical analysis. In fact, several reference works completely overlook Tambourines to Glory, listing Not without Laughter (1930) as Hughes’s only novel. But, because of Hughes’s importance, the novel was widely, if not always favorably, reviewed upon publication in the most important periodicals of the day.
Most critics admired the novel’s humor and liveliness, and were captivated by the author’s obvious affection for his characters. In the Saturday Review, Richard Gehman wrote that the novel “develops with a natural, effortless simplicity and an unassuming authority,” and that it “is full of vitality, earthiness, joy, unashamed religious feeling, and humorous perspective.” Arna Bontemps, in a review for the New York Herald Tribune, called the writing “as ribald, as effortless, and on the surface as artless as a folk ballad,” and commented on the “fondness and humor” with which Hughes created his characters. Reviewers were nearly universal in feeling that even though Essie and Laura and Buddy made mistakes and caused some mischief, it was impossible in the end not to like them.
Even the most favorable reviews considered the novel only a slight work. Critics who found weaknesses in the novel generally faulted the plot itself, especially...
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