Jack Kerouac's first published novel, The Town and the City is a story of monumental scope and great emotional depth. The book's jacket cover talks about Kerouac's idolization of Thomas Wolfe and this book reflects that interest. The story is about choices and regrets. It's also about a generation robbed of choices and left wondering and apathetic and lost. The book tells the story of a family growing up in a small New Hampshire town pre-World War II and follows the family through war and loss.
The book is written in 3rd person. I realized soon after starting The Town and the City that most of what I've read recently is 1st person or some variation of 1st person. Which is fine; 1st person is very intimate. However, in Kerouac's book, the choice of style really opens up the story. Instead of the reader having a close relationship with one or two people, the environment opens up and we form relationships with several people and feel part of the town. To say that in a different way, if the book were written 1st person, we would be looking through the eyes of the key character or characters. We would see the town and the rooms and the other characters, but more in a 'Being John Malkovich' way. Kerouac gives the reader room to appreciate the size and space of the story. We're drawn in to the town, the sounds of the river, and late-night mournful calls of a passing freight train.
The following quote from the book reflects one of the son's feelings while riding a troop train from one part of America to the other. He's just finished a letter from his mother.
The Town and the City is a beautiful, large and expansive novel that carries great emotional depth. I highly recommend everyone read this book.