Mrs Parkington, Louis Bromfield, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1943, 330 pp
This is much better than the earlier book I read by this author (Wild is the River) and is the #6 bestseller. The time is current but it is also the story of Mrs Parkington's life. At seventeen, she married the very rich industrial baron, Captain Parkington. They led a wild life, but now he is dead and all of her children and grandchildren have turned out badly.
There is a great-granddaughter who is all right, so at 84 years old, Mrs Parkington helps her get a good life set up. She then decides that it is the money that caused all the bad kids, makes a will that gives most of her fortune to help the less fortunate and sets off on a road trip to revisit her roots.
OK, it is hokey, but it was a good story told well.
The Apostle, Sholem Asch, GP Putnam's Sons, 1943, 754 pp
I made it through another one of Asch's books. This was #7 and along with The Robe and The Song of Bernadette, makes a heavy dose of religion and Christianity in the year that the United States entered World War II.
This is the story of Paul and of the very earliest spread of Christianity. The author follows the letters of Paul from the New Testament of the Bible and weaves the story around those letters. The most interesting aspect was Asch's portrayal of the conflicts Paul had with the Jewish high priests when he began converting Gentiles straight to Christianity without requiring them to become Jews first (which involves circumcision and following the dietary laws.) What an odd state of affairs. You can't become a Christian, which we don't approve of, without being a Jew first.
But there was way too much theology and by the end I was completely tired of reading about how glorious it is to suffer and how all the good stuff comes after death.
Hungry Hill, Daphne du Maurier, Doubleday, Doran and Co, Inc; 1943; 402 pp
Here is the #8 bestseller and du Maurier's 11th book. It is the story of four generations of an English family who had a copper mine which started in the 1820s. (The Industrial Revolution is a big fiction topic in the 40s.) It is also a story about progress vs country ways. It was well written and kept me engaged.
I realized that it was the rise of industry which changed life on this planet and led to both world wars as well as wars that are going on today. In the 1940s there was still a concern with the loss of a simpler kind of rural life; a big factor in this book. I got a sense of being in the stream of history as a generation. This was due in large part to du Maurier's skill as a writer.
The Forest and the Fort, Hervey Allen, Farrar & Rinehart, Inc; 1943; 344 pp
The #9 bestseller was great! One of my favorites of the year. Salathiel Albine was the son of a pioneer couple in the 1640s. The father was a blacksmith who fled from his Calvinist minister father in Connecticut with an Irish wife to the wilds of Pennsylvania. Both parents were killed by Indians, who took Salathiel and raised him. At the age of 17 or so, he left the Indians and became the valet of a Swiss captain who was a mercenary serving in the army of King George of England at Fort Pitt.
The British in those days wished to seal off the frontier at Pennsylvania to safeguard British colonists while driving all Indians westward. But many colonists wanted to push west and take more land. So here we have additional background to the Revolutionary War.
The book involves lots of battles, Indian attacks and political intrigue, but what made it so good was that Salathiel Albine is a great hero. There are at least two further books about Albine and the author had planned a series of ten volumes but died before he could write them.
The Song of Bernadette, Franz Werfel
I reviewed this in the 1942 list, when it was #1. In 1943 it stayed on the list but dropped to #10.