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Free Air by Sinclair Lewis

Updated on February 9, 2014

Free Air by Sinclair Lewis

This lens is dedicated to the early Sinclair Lewis novel Free Air, originally published in 1919.  This novel was about the possibilities of travel and adventure that the automobile opened up for all Americans, and was the last novel before his career making masterpiece, Main Street. Not only does this novel really show early Sinclair Lewis beginning to find his voice and really develop the easy to read and relate-able style that would make him a popular American author, but it also delivers a fascinating early road trip novel and a look at cars when they were just appearing on the American scene.

Sinclair Lewis Books from Amazon

Great works from a classic American author.

About Free Air, by Sinclair Lewis

The first "Open Road" adventure

Sinclair Lewis's Free Air was published in 1919 and was his last "beginner's novel" before he wrote Main Street, one of the most popular novels in American history and one that ensured his place among the greats.

"Free Air" is one of the earliest open roads tales, but that tends to be overshadowed by the fact that it is also considered a revised "pot boiler" novel. It was originally serialized as a sereis of stories for the Saturday Evening Post at an extremely impressive amount of $5,000. This was at the point where Sinclair Lewis made enough money to live off his writing because he knew how to write fluff that the public loved.

This novel is set in the earliest monthes of World War I, well before the United States was ever involved. (This was common in Sinclair Lewis works, as he didn't seem to care for novels set during a time of war. In 1919 Free Air was published as a full re-written version of the earlier serialization.

Free Air is about a single woman, Clair Boltwood, from a "fashionable" part of New York who drives a car with her father towards Seattle to visit cousins, and she's hoping to avoid marrying a man named Geoffrey, a "sophisticated" beau back in New York who is distinctly older than her and part of "higher society."

A small town Minnesota mechanic named Milton Daggett falls in love with Claire after rescuing her car from a mud hole, and decides to go with them in his own vehicle all the way to Seattle to make sure they're safe. Eventually Claire falls in love with him and they get married and live happily ever after.

Sinclair Lewis does a great job of describing the difficulties of early travel, the lack of paved or even gravel roads, and how "Free Air" are the signs at full service garages that they take their cars to every night to keep them functioning.

In real life Sinclair Lewis and his wife had made several cross country trips and adventures, and both the joys and the hardships of traveling at this time come across realistically from thin tires that deflated easily to dusty roads and mud-holes.

Free Air is considered one of the early travel novels, and certainly qualifies, despite its fluffy romantic plot.

Sinclair Lewis on eBay - First editions come up frequently

A geat place to start your collection.

Free Air - The Earliest Written Road Trip?

Can't imagine Sinclair Lewis envisioned anything like this, but it's nice to know that since Free Air the Road Trip has become an American Institution.

Links to Sinclair Lewis

Informative links to both Sinclair Lewis and his work.

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