Review by Kamakshi Balasubramanian
Sinclair Lewis’s Arrowsmith (1924) depicts the prevalence of corruption and unethical practices in the pharmaceutical industry.
Lewis’s protagonist, Martin Arrowsmith, doctor and researcher, armed with idealism and intelligence, fights the often hopeless but necessary good fight, guided by science, his extraordinary mentor, and the love of his life. His compromises ring sadly familiar and yet do not dishearten or disappoint the idealist in you, because he is harsher on himself than you. What he gives to the world of science and to the people who hold him in high regard is the story that holds you in thrall.
Here’s a novel with a serious theme and a rather crabby protagonist, which nonetheless makes one laugh a great deal.
The character of Leora, Martin’s wife, and Gottlieb, his mentor, move and fascinate you; the character of Dr. Pickerbaugh elevates social satire to the level of Gogol and Twain. Lucky for me that I read this remarkable novel now, when I have many afternoons of peace and quiet, to enjoy stylish prose that is deceptively simple. Arrowsmith is an easy and compelling read, full of memorable episodes, well-defined characters, and a masterful portrayal of a young, capitalist USA.
(My editor friends—please feel free to suggest improvements and fix things. Welcome comments from all).
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