Brewster’s Millions by George Barr McCutcheon

Millionaire’s Memo
Current Balance: $1,000,000
To Do: Get rid of it all in one year

Sound crazy? It’s exactly the quandary facing the hero of George Barr McCutcheon’s turn-of-the-century novel Brewster’s Millions. Montgomery Brewster is a young professional content to work his way up the business ladder the usual way—one rung at a time. However, on the night of his twenty-fifth birthday, he suddenly finds himself the recipient of a one million dollar inheritance from his deceased grandfather.

This changes his life, but an even bigger surprise lies shortly ahead for both Monty and his readers. An unknown uncle of his dies, and leaves the young man seven million dollars—if… Oh yes, there’s an if, a rather big one. Montgomery Brewster will become a multi-millionaire if he is literally penniless on his 26th birthday. Thus, Monty must spend the original million in a year’s time.

What would you do with that kind of money? Monty struggles with this question under the additional stipulations that he is not allowed to just give it away and that he can tell no one of his goal. If that were not enough, he quickly discovers that everything he invests in profits—even shares in an oil company about to go bust! Figuratively speaking, he has the golden touch!

The misadventures that ensue are hilarious and thought-provoking, as he throws himself into the task with gusto. He gives several lavish parties, spends countless thousands on flowers for a girl he thinks he loves, and eventually takes his friends on a sea voyage around half the globe. His rather bumbling attempts at romance add another twist to the story, with its own laughs and heartbreak. By the time he has reached the final months of his quest, he has found who his real friends are (the ones who stick with him even when they think he’s crazy), and given us a few lessons in finances (no joke!) and friendship. Adventure, comedy, and a little touch of mystery make this buoyant book an enjoyable read all the way through.

This book is not strictly Christian, but that does not mean that it lacks morals. It is actually quite descent (probably because it was published in 1902), and though Monty is not flawless, his strength of character is ground and sharpened throughout his trials. He emerges throughout the story as having a very solid and admirable character. There are many instances of drinking and smoking, and some readers may not appreciate the countless parties Monty throws. One needs to remember, however, that this book is not set in modern time and such parties in high-class circles were not the shameful affairs they often are today. There are also a few instances of violence (including a scene where a man is shot in order to rescue the life of a young woman), and some mild profanities are uttered throughout. A little mature for younger audiences, but still a good read-aloud if the narrator is willing to be wary.

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4 thoughts on “Brewster’s Millions by George Barr McCutcheon

  1. A million dollars in one year? In the nineteenth century, that sounds really hard. These days you could burn through that in a month (no, faster: if he were to buy expensive things then try to sell them on EBay, he’d be broke in a week if he really went for it). Not that I’ve ever tried, but seeing how some people make many times that amount a year and still go bankrupt, I’m assuming its possible.

  2. Pingback: Classic Literature » Blog Archive » Brewster’s Millions by George Barr McCutcheon

  3. The book is really funny, so be prepared to laugh when you read it!

    It was also pretty interesting to see the differences between monetary value during the time period and today. Brewster’s task is rather hard, whereas today it would be much simpler. I like your Ebay idea! 🙂 I wouldn’t have trouble spending a million bucks and I wouldn’t even need to use ebay–I probably wouldn’t even have stuff to show for my spending. College…braces…ya, a million dollars sounds nice! 🙂

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