Loon Lake

by E. L. Doctorow

Hardcover, 1980

Call number




Random House (1980), Edition: 1st, 258 pages


It is the Great Depression of the 1930s, and a passionate young man from Paterson, New Jersey, leaves home to find his fortune. What he finds, on a cold and lonely night in the Adirondack Mountains, is a vision of life so different from his own that it changes his destiny, leading him from the side of a railroad track to a magical place called Loon Lake.

User reviews

LibraryThing member morryb
It is rare that I am left without words in trying to describe how utterly bad a book is, and the horrible taste that it has left in its' wake. I am not sure that I have an adequate enough vocabulary to give this book the scathing review it so richly deserves. i found all the characters to be just
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repugnant, and I could care less about any of them, or any of the events that happened to them. The plot was confusing and I wasn't sure whether it was the author, or whether the editors and publishers really messed up how this book was put together. The story would relate one event and then several chapters later relate the same event again, only form a slightly earlier time. The character development was non existent and the characters themselves were shallow, uninteresting sub-humans and i found their actions to be putrid. I have often thought that even if I did not like a book, I should be willing to give the author a second chance. I don't see that happening here. if someone wanted to borrow this book, more than likely, I would refuse that request. I cannot emphasize strongly enough to pass on this book, even if it means reading a mediocre book for the third or fourth time.
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LibraryThing member DinadansFriend
A drifter finds himself on a summer home of an industrialist. But it wasn't engaging. The Doctorow flare for fast paced story telling didn't emerge from this mass.
LibraryThing member brakketh
Another of the boys own adventure style novels. This one didn't grab me like [Billy Bathgate].
LibraryThing member shemthepenman
Loon Lake is one of Doctorow's more experimental novels. Set largely during the Depression years of the 1930s, it is the narrative of Joe, a young man from Patterson, New Jersey who drifts across the east coast of the USA. Following a private railroad into the Adirondacks, Joe arrives at the
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titular Loon Lake, a private estate owned by business magnate F.W. Bennett and home to the eccentric poet Warren Penfield.

The novel's idiosyncratic style is its strong point. Certain chapters are presented through interior monologue (or "stream of consciousness") that recalls the great modernist works of the early twentieth century and other chapters are framed through the poetry of Penfield, drawing attention to the way in which places and periods of history become mythologized. That said, the novel is uneven in places, particularly the slightly unconvincing third act, which takes the action away from the eponymous Lake and feels a little tacked on. Despite this, the novel is generally an entertaining and stimulating read, with Doctorow tackling familiar themes within his ouevre (the excesses of capitalism, the organisation of labour, masculinity and violence) in an innovative fashion.
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