This was my favorite book for about a decade, so it is difficult to write this review. I read it four times - all between the ages of 18 and 27. What did I love? It's tough, funny, and creates a vast and quite realistic panorama of northeast Pa. society in the early 1900s, Long Island society in the 1920s, NY investment banking, Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s, Washington during WWII. The writing is sharp, acerbic, extraordinary in its thorough descriptions of people's faces, haircuts, favorite drinks, cars, hats, umbrellas, cufflinks, watches, gloves, and what they signify socially. O'Hara is justly famous for the realism and biting wit of his dialogue, the great and easy flow of his narrative. One feels that there are ALWAYS many characters in his novels and short stories about whom others will say "oh, smart guy, eh?" and "take a poke at him", which is fun. It was all thrillingly adult when I was that age to read these - "ah, so that's the kind of sophistication I have to look forward to".
Elements I've since noticed: - O'Hara seems to feel that to tack on bleak endings for his most-liked characters is to be smart and naturalistic - yet in this case, the (quite vivid) Alfred Eaton character simply seems stronger than this. O'Hara also has a conventional sense of "normal sex", outside of which the reader is to know the character is truly evil (i.e., unable to love). O'Hara packs his novels with coincidence - as an adult, I have been truly disappointed that I DON'T run into acquaintances in restaurants, theaters, trains all the time! Finally, O'Hara's virtuous characters do not come across nearly as realistically.
In summary, O'Hara is limited - perhaps most by his times and his perception of the permanence of what are really quite transitory measures of quality in people. However, he's still very enjoyable to read. I think Updike wrote once that in the Orient, he'd be known as "Old Man Who Loves Writing" and that is perfectly true - the reader feels it. He's VERY readable, intelligent, but perhaps not truly wise in the more abiding of matters.