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Extended Audio Sample The Rise of Silas Lapham Audiobook, by William Dean Howells Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,450 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: William Dean Howells Narrator: Grover Gardner Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2012 ISBN: 9781470805104
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Howells’ best-known work and a subtle classic of its time, The Rise of Silas Lapham is an elegant tale of Boston society and manners.

After garnering a fortune in the paint business, Silas Lapham moves his family from their Vermont farm to the city of Boston in order to improve his social position. The consequences of this endeavor are both humorous and tragic as the greedy Silas brings his company to the brink of bankruptcy.

The novel focuses on important themes in the American literary tradition—the efficacy of self-help and determination, the ambiguous benefits of social and economic progress, and the continual contradiction between urban and pastoral values—and provides a paradigm of American culture in the Gilded Age.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Mr. Howells has made a patient study of Boston people, and shows himself a delicate satirist…[An] able and thoroughly enjoyable novel.”

    New York Times, 1885

  • “A novel which no one can neglect who cares to understand American character…[Howells] has at last attained the mastery of narrative which we see in The Rise of Silas Lapham.”

    Saturday Review (London), 1885

  • Silas Lapham is the most enjoyable of Howell’s Books to read and study.”

    Kermit Vanderbilt

  • “[The Rise of Silas Lapham] is a book to read with a great deal of pleasure and to be laid down, after being read, with much disappointment.”

    Washington Post

  • “Grover Gardner is one of America’s most popular and versatile audiobook narrators and winner of an Audio Publishers Association Audie Award.  In this interesting period piece, he does an excellent job voicing the characters with believable and natural Boston and New England accents.  Gardner reads with just the right dramatic touch without overdoing it, keeping the listener’s attention from beginning to end.”

    Soundcommentary.com (starred review)

  • SoundCommentary.com’s The Best of the Best, 2013

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 James | 2/14/2014

    " A good start to my American Realism and Naturalism class. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Neil | 2/14/2014

    " Studied this at University. Found it a bit plodding, to be honest. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nicole | 2/13/2014

    " I am so completely in love with this book that I can't believe that I made it this far in my life having never read it. My students are enjoying it as well, which tickles me to pieces here. I want to just immerse myself in Howells now. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Zach | 2/12/2014

    " I was forced to read this as an undergrad. I'm glad she made me---Howells is a rare critic who could actually produce good fiction. Not great. Good. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kaya | 2/11/2014

    " I never finished this - it was for a class - I found it insufferable at the time. Maybe I was wrong, though I'll probably never find out. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 David Lentz | 2/8/2014

    " This is a good American novel which is well shy of greatness because the author's characters read with a few exceptions more like simple archetypes of the American Dream. The novel concerns the eponymous Silas who has discovered a paint mine and brought his high quality paint to market. His business success generates sufficient revenues to merit the construction of a new home on the water side of Beacon Street in the Back Bay of Boston. There he meets the archetypal Brahmin family, the Coreys, who have issues with the Lapham family's humble origins. The writing style is straight-ahead narrative, which proves to be a struggle to become immersed in: there's no stylistic invention here but the craftmanship is respectable. The dialogue seems stilted, cold and formal in places but that may tend to be so in Boston. The novel is emotively neutral: Silas is an honest man of action but deeply stoic with little to say even in the worst crises. Howells can write well enough but his style does not engage. I have a similar complaint of Henry James who seems to write elegantly and prolifically about little of importance. However, the writing style of James is luminous. As a Bostonian who has lived in the Back Bay, I was intrigued by his descriptions of it and Beacon Hill in the latter half of the 19th century. This book was also one of the earliest novels to focus upon the rise of business owners in pursuit the American Dream. The ethical idealism of Lapham and his wife -- some might say their naivete -- prove to be a challenge in the profitable pursuit of business in the big city. The family of Silas seems drawn credibly as is the young Tom Corey but pretty much everyone else seemed flat and archetypal. Howells was very well connected as a writer in Boston and traveled widely abroad during his life among the upper class. Howells is concerned about the true nature of the chimera of success and whether an investment in the dogged pursuit of it for financial gain is worth all the time and effort spent to gain it. That's a fair and relevant question, of course, to consider in your own life as you read "The Rise Silas Lapham." Sorry, but while I respect the writing, this novel simply left me fairly flat. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Monika Gordon | 1/30/2014

    " This novel deals with the rise of the newly rich and socislly aspiring families in the years following the Civil War in the time of rapid growth of industry and business "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Mae | 1/23/2014

    " Forced to read it as an undergraduate. Hated it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dick Hamilton | 1/19/2014

    " I loved it. I love the writing, the way it represents the classes during this time period, I love the characters. I can see why Howells was popular, and he should be more so today. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Julie S. | 1/18/2014

    " Read for American Novel class spring 2012. I had never heard of this book before doing my book shopping for the class, but it was a pleasant surprise of a novel. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Alex | 1/15/2014

    " I respect Howells, and I respect his project of realism. I greatly enjoy the work of those he influenced. But this gets to be a fairly dull story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gizelle | 1/14/2014

    " I just love going back to another period in history. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Manda | 1/13/2014

    " I've never found as well-matched a fictional kindred spirit as Penelope Lapham. Subtle humor is everywhere in this novel, which displays layers of perception and points of view without ever really saying who is "right" and "wrong." I loved it because it was a study of the everday mundane, and it was writing that knew it was writing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lizette | 1/8/2014

    " I loved this book. It's about a man who makes his money in the paint buisness somewhere between 1880-19-something. He makes all this money and starts building this beautiful house to compete with the other rich folks, but in the end he goes bankrupt. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Christopher | 1/6/2014

    " The realism was very refreshing, and the characters engaging. Nice pearls of wisdom here and there as well. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lakishia | 1/5/2014

    " This book was all right. I had difficulty in the beginning of the novel but it got better throughout. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Christopher | 12/30/2013

    " The realism was very refreshing, and the characters engaging. Nice pearls of wisdom here and there as well. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Lindsay | 12/30/2013

    " I have no desire to write anything nice or enlightened about this text. It was stupid and frustrating. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Brian Clulow | 12/20/2013

    " I read this because I had to. Forcing kids to read books like this makes them dislike reading. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lizette | 12/9/2013

    " I loved this book. It's about a man who makes his money in the paint buisness somewhere between 1880-19-something. He makes all this money and starts building this beautiful house to compete with the other rich folks, but in the end he goes bankrupt. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Julie S. | 12/4/2013

    " Read for American Novel class spring 2012. I had never heard of this book before doing my book shopping for the class, but it was a pleasant surprise of a novel. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Heather | 12/1/2013

    " not very engaging and rather dry book. Story premise interesting but narrative kills it. Would not recommend. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Shari | 10/26/2013

    " Predictable at times, but overall an enjoyable read. I liked how many times they insisted the new house would be on the water side of Beacon Street. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gina | 9/27/2013

    " It was quite readable(not always true of older works), and it has what has become a favorite quotation of mine, that jumped off the page at me, about our manners and customs probably counting for more than they should. "It was written in...1895?? How remarkably forward-thinking Howells was!" "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laurie | 7/5/2013

    " Howell's authority on realism is "truly" realized in what ironically becomes Laphaps fall into the class he best suited. A look at conservative complacency at its finest. A recommended read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Brian Clulow | 4/27/2013

    " I read this because I had to. Forcing kids to read books like this makes them dislike reading. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Monica | 4/22/2013

    " An understated novel of morals, manners, money and fin de siecle Boston. My students will hate me for it, but I found it a great character study. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Paul Jellinek | 11/26/2012

    " A minor classic about a New England businessman who overreaches and pays the price. Very enjoyable, but not on a par with James or Flaubert, whose realist style was clearly a major influence. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mia | 11/8/2012

    " Poking fun at the self-made man...who actually turns out to be the most moral character in the book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Neil | 10/25/2012

    " Studied this at University. Found it a bit plodding, to be honest. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laurie | 10/10/2012

    " Howell's authority on realism is "truly" realized in what ironically becomes Laphaps fall into the class he best suited. A look at conservative complacency at its finest. A recommended read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Karen | 8/7/2012

    " This book may have been very relevant around the turn of the century because of its portrait of self-made versus inherited status in Boston. But now it's just a bit boring. There was a melodrama about a man but it fizzled into nothing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jill | 7/14/2012

    " I listened to this classic. I liked it very much: it verifys what we mean by literature. The ending wrapup was a little too quick. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gina | 3/31/2012

    " It was quite readable(not always true of older works), and it has what has become a favorite quotation of mine, that jumped off the page at me, about our manners and customs probably counting for more than they should. "It was written in...1895?? How remarkably forward-thinking Howells was!" "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nicole | 3/23/2012

    " I am so completely in love with this book that I can't believe that I made it this far in my life having never read it. My students are enjoying it as well, which tickles me to pieces here. I want to just immerse myself in Howells now. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Paul Jellinek | 3/18/2012

    " A minor classic about a New England businessman who overreaches and pays the price. Very enjoyable, but not on a par with James or Flaubert, whose realist style was clearly a major influence. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mark Zockoll | 1/12/2012

    " This my friends was a delightful read. Howells American Hero?? The executor of the true American dream? TOM COREY! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kaya | 10/23/2011

    " I never finished this - it was for a class - I found it insufferable at the time. Maybe I was wrong, though I'll probably never find out. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cat | 6/23/2011

    " A great story that really shows the characteristics of the Realistic Era in American. Post-Civil War, it is incredible the plugs Howells gives for realism right in the text. The story was fun, the characters were even better! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Krunal Patel | 6/9/2011

    " The end was rather lack luster.....grrrr old books.. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Fred | 5/13/2011

    " The romance was weak, but the story of Silas's business dealings in the latter half was quite good. William Dean Howells should let loose more; the few times he does are quite good. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michelle | 5/7/2011

    " I thought it wes really good. I didn't see the end coming. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Faith | 4/20/2011

    " 3 1/2 stars

    I am thankful that my American Lit survey showed me that there ARE some decent American novels written before 1900... I just generally have no patience for American Lit and tend to be an British snob. I'm a terrible American. :P "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Brian | 4/3/2011

    " I read this because I had to. Forcing kids to read books like this makes them dislike reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laurie | 1/26/2011

    " Howell's authority on realism is "truly" realized in what ironically becomes Laphaps fall into the class he best suited. A look at conservative complacency at its finest. A recommended read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Christopher | 11/28/2010

    " The realism was very refreshing, and the characters engaging. Nice pearls of wisdom here and there as well. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Paul | 11/14/2009

    " A minor classic about a New England businessman who overreaches and pays the price. Very enjoyable, but not on a par with James or Flaubert, whose realist style was clearly a major influence. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cat | 11/2/2009

    " A great story that really shows the characteristics of the Realistic Era in American. Post-Civil War, it is incredible the plugs Howells gives for realism right in the text. The story was fun, the characters were even better! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Monika | 10/28/2009

    " This novel deals with the rise of the newly rich and socislly aspiring families in the years following the Civil War in the time of rapid growth of industry and business "

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About the Author
Author William Dean Howells

William Dean Howells (1837–1920) was an American realist author and literary critic. Nicknamed “the Dean of American Letters,” he was particularly known for his tenure as editor of the Atlantic Monthly as well as his own writings, including the Christmas story “Christmas Every Day” and the novel The Rise of Silas Lapham. He is known as the father of American realism. In 1915, he was awarded the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Fiction.

About the Narrator

Grover Gardner (a.k.a. Tom Parker) is an award-winning narrator with over eight hundred titles to his credit. Named one of the “Best Voices of the Century” and a Golden Voice by AudioFile magazine, he has won three prestigious Audie Awards, was chosen Narrator of the Year for 2005 by Publishers Weekly, and has earned thirty-seven Earphones Awards.