Book summary: "Tony Grams comes to America at the start of the twentieth century, set on becoming a new man. Driven to leave poverty behind, he lands a job at the Ford Motor Company that puts him at the center of a daring social and economic experiment." (TLC Book Tours)
My thoughts: The novel New Men by Jon Enfield is a veritable history lesson in the early years of the Ford Motor company. In the early 1900s, a time when large-scale factories were churning out automobiles and changing lives, Italian immigrant Tony Grams is hired as an inspector for Ford. He isn't an inspector of cars, however. What Tony Grams inspects is the lives of the factory workers.
Based on a real, yet quickly defunct, branch of the Ford Motor Company, these inspectors delved into the bank accounts and conducted kitchen inspections on the pretense of hiring and keeping good solid production-line workers. And all of this occurred at a time of speakeasies, bootleggers, the rise of the Klan and much more. What results is a social and physiological clash of values, wills and beliefs.
Truthfully I had never heard of such a practice at all by the Ford Motor Company. This "Big Brother" intrusion against the backdrop of the other important historical events of the day was quite interesting.
What was really confusing to me, however, was the "voice" of the first-person narrator, Tony Grams. He is an immigrant who rather frequently says incorrect things. In fact, words are written wrong in this book on purpose to convey errors that Tony and other immigrants would have made in their English. This point is explained in the beginning notes of the book. However, sometime Tony Grams "speaks" like a pretentious English professor. For example, Tony unbelievably says "Laria and I were sitting the gloaming, parlor windows opened in supplication of a breeze." (Page 199) Or perhaps "Thia's engagement was just the spy of sorrow. The battalion arrived not much later, delivered by a Western Union bicycle boy." (Page 171)
New Men by Jon Enfield convincingly shines a light on a relatively unknown moment in history. The premise is quite good. It is the delivery that wore me down.
Rating: 3 of 5 stars
- Pages: 303
- Year originally published: 2014
- Author: Connect with Jon on his blog, To Burn from Within.
- Book Tour: My review of this book is part of a larger collection of reviews that can be found at TLC Book Tours.
- Purchase on Amazon: New Men by Jon Enfield