Ann Vickers by Sinclair Lewis
A good book not only in terms of characterization (Lewis’s forte) but also in illuminating select issues of the time (1900s-1930s): women’s suffrage, prison reform and the reality of “vice.” One of Ann/Lewis’s strongest achievements is the argument that the nature of prisons essentially exacerbates the crime problem. Ann learns that due to ill-trained wardens/guards and poor conditions “Prison makes the man who enjoyed beating fellow drunks in a barroom come out wanting to kill a policeman” (272). However, like in many of Lewis’s novels, a solution is presented. Once a prison superintendent herself Ann preaches the virtues of better trained and better paid employees, cleaner and more humane conditions and an extended parole program. While at times Ann’s ultimate destiny feels a bit unrealistic, overall, a solid portrait is painted of possibilities of the New Woman of the early twentieth century.