Books, Fiction, Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

The first time I came across this fat novel which concerns Objectivism at its best, was in college on a friend’s desk. The white colour cover with red structure like lines, every word written on the cover in uppercase letters. If the size of the book was not fascinating to me at the time, the font size inside it did the job. By looking inside it, eloquently written words uniformly scattered over 700 pages made me curious. That was the first time I heard about The Fountainhead. Though I never thought that it would be three years I’d take the novel in my hands to read it for the first time.

In Rand’s The Fountainhead you will meet many characters, but some are ordinary and realistically described human beings, few of them are fascinating. One is Howard Roark, the protagonist, an ingenious architect. He is not the most loved person and at the start of the book, you might not like him. I definitely did not. But as the pages turn up, I come to understand Howard Roark more with Rand’s imagination prescribed in her own words.

Howard Roark’s strength lies in his work. He an honest man, never distracted by the worldly entities, dedicated and focused, behaving bluntly, mostly take him for being rude, clear mind, and emotionally strong. Work Gives him joy. He enjoy his work.On the other hand, there is Peter Keating. A complete human being. A proper shadow of any other man. Personifying every other person on this planet. One of the most realistic characters of the book. Believe in success, but his way of achieving it is not so a likeable method yet fondly practiced all over the world. 

The novel tells the story of these two characters in the mid twentieth century America, since they start their architectural career till they are mature enough, or the society the reside is mature enough to recognise the difference. Rand’s book has almost everything. From ambitious young minds, to egoistic adults, jealous friends, and lovers of their own passion.

The narrative is straight and the dialogues exchange between the characters of the book is what droves the plot forward. Not at a single point the book disappointed me, but rather after every chapter it made me curious that helped to read it with more eagerness. Rand’s characterisation is well thought and maintained throughout the book. Objectivism is the professional theme of the novel. One might say that Love is a sub theme but I did not see it is a sub theme.

The book enlightened me on the subjects of Collectivism, Individualism, Altruism, and provoked the thought about how society works is a rat race gone all wrong. I won’t say the length of the novel is something to be considered but yes the novel could have been a bit shorter, like a hundred pages shorter. It is a book a person will read once in a lifetime that will become a memory in itself.

4 out of 5!

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17 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand”

      1. Yes I read Atlas Shrugged in college. It is my mothers favorite book but not mine. It may have been my age. I have thought about rereading it and I may do that in 2016. We the Living is a fabulous read and it is not as wordy as her other books. I have not read the Fountainhead but will soon!

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  1. I bought this book some time ago mostly because the “ingenious architect” is supposedly based on Frank Lloyd Wright. However I am totally daunted by the size of the book and though I keep looking at it from my perch on the sofa and still haven’t been quite able to motivate myself to pick it up. Good for you for tackling it.

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  2. This is probably my favorite Ayn Rand book of the three I’ve read. “Atlas Shrugged” and “Anthem” being the other two. When you write a review of Atlas Shrugged, I’ll be sure to chime in there too. ;cD

    I admit, it took 3 tries for me to get through this book, as I had much the same problem with it that I did with Fellowship of the Ring. I just couldn’t get into it the first few times I tried and quit before I went 100 pages. The beginning is all necessary, I do agree, but the pacing felt like it flagged and is the only place I could call ‘weak’, but barely so. On the other hand, once Roark gets out of the Quarry and into the architecture, the more complex characters show up in the form of Ellsworth Toohey, Dominique Francon nee Wynand, Gail Wynand, Alvah Skaritt and the rest, things really begin to cook. It is sort of like waiting for the stock to boil, and then the smell permeates the kitchen, so to speak. (BTW, the movie with Gary Cooper is pretty rubbish even with Ayn Rand writing the screenplay. I wanted to like it but this book will not fit in a single 2 hour movie like that. Not if you want any of the subtleties that are the raison d’etre of this book.)

    To this day, I still cannot quite figure out what it is about her writing that is almost like biting tinfoil at times, but is so captivating I keep reading. In many regards the whole thing has a the same sensation that I get when watching Baz Luhrmann production of “The Great Gatsby”, possibly because it is of a similar era and zeitgeist. It’s beautiful, and lush in its own stylized way that captures the energy of the 1920’s – 1940’s almost dieselpunk vitality) I dunno. I also think a lot about Frank Lloyd Wright when reading this who is an obvious influence on Roark’s character.

    What really underpins the reasons why I feel this is a great book is that it is unapologetic for starters. “I have something to say!” blares at you from every chapter and says it with an eloquence that both cannot be ignored, distilled out, yet is not preachy.
    The other is the prophetic aspects of the book, for when I look at the world, time and time again, I see the hand of Ellsworth Toohey, Lois Cook, Guy Francon, Peter Keating and Gail Wynand everywhere, but woefully few Howard Roarks.
    As a dissection of human behavior and motivations, what seems stilted at first as the characters seem to be only archetypes for philosophies, (Stilted is a word that I’ve never been able to leave behind when reading some of the dialogue no matter how right or well crafted it may be) but then, just like the modern architecture that Roark champions without picking up the mantle of champion, it has its own clear lines and beauty to it that makes it worth multiple reads.

    I will say this too. The “Villain’s Soliloquy” and big reveal is one of the most chilling and awesome I have read in books. To see the scale of it all wrapped up in one poignant fit of bravado is mesmerizing and horrifying all at once. To realize also that it is being played out in American society… nay, all Western society, writ large, should terrify anyone mature enough to see the true danger of it all.

    Personally, this is one of the books that should be foisted on every high-school kid as mandatory reading. It speaks more as to the decline of our civilization and may help provide them with more tools in how to think critically, rather than be swept up with tacky, ignorant emotionalism to become useful reactionaries for those who really understand the levers of power and manipulation in the world.

    This is a clarion call of a novel that proudly and beautifully declare their message.

    I only wish there were more like it in the world

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    1. I have tried Atlas Shrugged once but that was a fail attempt as I got distracted. But I do plan to read it in future and do book review, and I most welcome you.

      I don’t think movies can do justice to a book like that and I no more expect anything out of it. PS: There’s a movie on Atlas Shrugged too and by watching the trailer I could till it is bogus and dull.

      There is a captivating sense in her writing which will drive any reader through her text, irrespective of its length. I agree, the book should be recommended to children in schools as it has a lot to offer.

      If you ever come across a book like this, similar sort, feel free to recommend it to me. I am always in awe of this kind of text. However, one cannot read every book, can he?

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