Seventeen (novel)

Seventeen (novel)

infobox Book |
name = Seventeen: A Tale of Youth and Summer Time and the Baxter Family Especially William

image_caption =
author = Booth Tarkington
illustrator =
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Novel
publisher = Harper and Brothers
pub_date = March 1916
media_type = Print (Hardcover)
pages = 329 pp (first edition, hardback)
isbn = NA
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"Seventeen: A Tale of Youth and Summer Time and the Baxter Family Especially William" is a humorous novel by Booth Tarkington that gently satirizes first love, in the person of a callow 17-year-old, William Sylvanus Baxter. "Seventeen" takes place in a small city in the pre-World War I Midwestern United States. It was published as sketches in the "Metropolitan Magazine" in 1914, and collected in a single volume in 1916 [Calta, Louis. "'Seventeen' bows here this evening." "New York Times", Jun. 21, 1951, p. 24.] , when it was the bestselling novel in the United States.

Plot summary

The middle-class Baxter family enjoys a comfortable and placid life until Lola Pratt comes to stay at the home of their neighbor, May Parcher. An aspiring actress, Lola is a “howling belle of eighteen” who talks baby-talk “even at breakfast” and holds the center of attention wherever she goes. She instantly captivates the youths of William’s circle with her beauty, her flirtatious manner, and her ever-present prop, a tiny white lap dog, Flopit. William believes he has found True Love at Last. Like the other boys, he spends the summer pursuing Lola at picnics, dances and evening parties, inadvertently making himself obnoxious to his family and friends. They, in turn, constantly embarrass and humiliate him as they do not share his exalted opinion of his "babytalk lady."

William steals his father’s dress-suit and wears it to court Lola in the evenings at the home of the soon-regretful Parcher family. He writes a bad love poem to “Milady,” hoards dead flowers Lola has touched, and develops, his family feels, a peculiar interest in beards and child marriages among the ‘Hindoos.’ To William's constant irritation, his ten-year-old sister Jane and the Baxters' Negro handyman, Genesis, persist in treating him as an equal instead of the serious-minded grown-up he now believes himself to be. His parents generally smile tolerantly at William’s lovelorn condition, and hope he will survive it to become a responsible, mature adult.

After a summer that William is sure has changed his life forever, Lola leaves town on the train. The book concludes with a Maeterlinck-inspired flash-forward, showing that William has indeed survived the trials of adolescence.


On the book's publication, the "New York Times" gave it a full-page review, calling it a "delicious lampoon" and praising it as "a notable study of the psychology of the boy in his latter teens." ["New York Times," March 15, 1916, p. BR73.]

Most reviewers have seen "Seventeen" as humorously truthful. A contemporary reviewer [Phelps, William Lyon. "The Advance of the English Novel" (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1916), pp. 267–301] wrote, “Every man and woman over fifty ought to read "Seventeen". It is not only a skillful analysis of adolescent love, it is, with all its side-splitting mirth, a tragedy. No mature person who reads this novel will ever seriously regret his lost youth or wish he were young again....” “As funny, but sadder than "Penrod", it has the same insight into how it feels to be young.” [Avery, Gillian. "Booth Tarkington: Overview" in "Twentieth- Century Children's Writers", 4th ed., ed. Laura Standley Berger (Detroit: St. James Press, 1995).] In a review of the 1951 stage version, New York Times theater critic Brooks Atkinson called it a “humorous and touching story of adolescence…It has a touch of immortality that most popular works lack. Fundamentally it is true.” [Atkinson, Brooks. "Two new musicals." New York Times, Jul 1, 1951, p. 55.]

Other reviewers fault the book for not being realistic. “Real adolescence, like any other age of man, has its own passions, its own poetry, its own tragedies and felicities; the adolescence of Mr. Tarkington's tales is almost nothing but farce staged for outsiders.” [Van Doren, Carl. "Contemporary American Novelists: Booth Tarkington," T"he Nation", 112:2901 (February 9, 1921), pp. 233-35.]

Reviewers have suggested that Willie Baxter could be an older "Penrod". [Avery.] "Seventeen" and "Penrod" are also similar in structure; both are collections of sketches, and some characters and situations from "Penrod" are recycled in "Seventeen": “ [m] any of the characters are parallel...There are whole episodes that are similar…” [Avery.]

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

* Silent film [ "Seventeen"] in 1916, with Jack Pickford and Louise Huffas.
* Play, adapted by Hugh Stanislaus Stange and Stannard Mears, produced in 1918 with Gregory Kelly and Ruth Gordon.
* Musical comedy [ "Hello, Lola"] , based on the 1918 play, produced in New York City in 1926.
* Radio broadcast [ Seventeen] by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre, c. 1938.
* Film [ "Seventeen"] in 1940, with Jackie Cooper and Betty Field.
* Musical [ "Seventeen"] , adapted by Sally Benson, produced in New York City in 1951, with Kenneth Nelson and Ann Crowley.


External links

* [ "Seventeen"] at Internet Archive
*An extensive review can be found in cite web | title=Booth Tarkington. Seventeen entry | last= | first= | work=20th-Century American Bestsellers | url= | date= | accessdate=2007-11-15

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