Read: World’s End by Upton Sinclair


About the Author:

Upton Sinclair wrote close to one hundred books in many genres. He achieved popularity in the first half of the twentieth century, acquiring particular fame for his classic muckraking novel, The Jungle (1906). To gather information for the novel, Sinclair spent seven weeks undercover working in the meat packing plants of Chicago. These direct experiences exposed the horrific conditions in the U.S. meat packing industry, causing a public uproar that contributed in part to the passage a few months later of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act. In 1943, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

About the Book:

Publisher’s Summary: World’s End is the first novel in Upton Sinclair’s Lanny Budd series. First published in 1940, the story covers the period from 1913 to 1919. This is the beginning of a monumental 7,340 page novel, the story of Lanny Budd, a young American, beginning in Europe in 1913. It is also an intimate record of a great world which fell victim to its own civilization. A new world was about to be born.

599 pages, first published 1940

My rating: 4 (out of 5)

My review: Lanny is drawn to art, poetry and music but, as the son of an American munitions manufacturer, is exposed to (some would say, cynical) arguments of commercial reality,  power-broking and real politik.  The conflict Lanny experiences as he struggles to make sense of these opposing forces is at the heart of the novel.   This is a long novel and at times, particularly in Part 5 covering the attempts to arrive at a peace settlement, it seems more straight history than historical fiction but Lanny’s Forrest Gump-like ability to be at the centre of important events and several underlying stories stop it from feeling completely like a college course.  Upton Sinclair depicts the motives of the countries involved (particularly Great Britain, France and America) with brutal clarity (“Now they were here, not to form a League of Nations, not to save mankind from future bloodshed, but to divvy the swag”).   That the war was fought for control of  natural resources (coal, oil, steel) and territory is made very clear and in this sense, the lesson of history is that nothing much has changed.

In three words: Epic, detailed, factual