The Poorhouse Fair

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The Poorhouse Fair
First edition
Author John Updike
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Alfred A. Knopf
Publication date

The Poorhouse Fair (1959) was the first novel by the American author John Updike. A second edition (New York : Knopf, 1977) included an introduction by the author and was slightly revised.[1]


The residents of the Diamond County Home for the Aged prepare for their annual fair, a summer celebration at which they sell their crafts and produce to the people of the nearby town. The fair is at first rained out, and the young prefect, Conner, turns the "inmates" against him by arguing with the noble Hook (94 years old, a former teacher with strong religious beliefs). After the rain clears, some residents fling small stones at Conner. The novel examines the political and religious dialectics that exist among its characters and their respective generations.

Critical reception[edit]

The novel has been overshadowed by Updike's more popular works, and reviews have been mixed. As examples, Donald Barr of The New York Times deemed it "a work of intellectual imagination and great charity," [2] while Commentary called it a "hearty but not very successful try at a first novel."[3]


  1. ^ The Poorhouse Fair, Knopf Publishing Group, 1977
  2. ^ [1] The New York Times website, accessed 3 January 2013
  3. ^ [2] Commentary website, accessed 3 January 2013