Lucien Freud: Girl reading (from here)
I have just finished reading Golden Age, the last of Jane Smiley's trilogy The Last Hundred Years. I have always enjoyed her writing, but this tale in particular has chimed so closely with my own memories and thoughts.
Following a family's stories is such an apposite way to consider human development. In this case Jane Smiley has started in Some Luck with the period just after the first World War, which is where my own memories start. Of course I was not around then, but as a small child all the family conversation involved vivid retellings by aunts, great aunts, and one great great aunt of who did what, where around then. My own story started in the late 1940s, just after the second World War, and so the narratives within the second volume Early Warning are more personally vivid.
Pablo Picasso: Reclining woman reading (from here)
The third volume Golden Age goes beyond our present time by a couple of years and paints a somewhat pessimistic picture of where we are now. A character asks if we have been living through a golden age that has come to an end, a question I increasingly seem to ask myself.
Alex Katz: Round Hill (from here)
The narrative begins on a farm and spreads to many occupations, situations, and locations, covering society's development through 20th into 21st century United States. Farming and food production have been vital elements in humanity's development, and in some ways perhaps provide a litmus test for how we are doing as a society.
These reviews give a much better broad idea of each volume than I can:
Some Luck here and here
Early Warning here, here, and here
Golden Age here and here
Patrick Procktor: Woman reading (from here)
Somewhere in the reviews Jane Smiley is compared to Tolstoy, and certainly I was immersed in the trilogy as I previously have been in those tremendous novels that previously did not blanch at taking a great chunk of their society to hold up and examine in human detail. Immersion in this trilogy has not made me feel any more optimistic about where we humans are going - especially as I have been reading it during the build-up to one of the most ironically excessively wasteful commercial festivals of the year - but nonetheless I very much enjoyed the telling of the tale.
Henry Moore: Girl reading at window (from here)