Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Here is the first half of the top 10 bestsellers of 1945:

Forever Amber, Kathleen Winsor
At #1, a carry-over from the 1944 list when it was #4. See review in post of April 14, 06.

The Robe, Lloyd C Douglas
#2 is another carry-over from 1944 when it was #2 and from 1943 when it was #1 and from 1942 when it was #7. Four years on the top 10 bestsellers list. I believe that beats The Da Vinci Code. See review in post of March 1, 06.

The Black Rose, Thomas B Costain, Doran & Co Inc, 1945, 403 pp
This was the #3 bestseller of 1945. It takes place in the late 1200s. Walter of Gurnie is a bastard, a result of a love affair before his father went on a Crusade and came home with a wife. He is a strong, determined lad and sets off on a journey to Cathay. He has many adventures and falls in love with a Grecian girl whose father was also a Crusader.

Finally after a long separation, during which they are each having further adventures, they are reunited. Walter gets knighted by King Edward I and even talks the king into trying to get Roger Bacon released from prison. Good story in the way of historical fiction from the 1940s.

The White Tower, James Ramsey Ullman, JB Lippincott Company, 1945, 479 pp
When I first opened this book and saw it was about mountain climbing, I braced myself for a long boring read. (I am not a fan of mountain climbing stories.) But it was the #4 bestseller of 1945 and it turned out to be an amazing book. It is about mountain climbing but also about war, mankind, dreams, enemies, love and why we carry on in the face of so many disappointed hopes and dreams.

Martin Ordway is an American Air Force fighter pilot in WWII whose plane is hit and who lands in Switzerland near the mountain resort where he had spent summers in his youth. There is his old friend Carla, now a woman, and a cast of characters who all want to climb the White Tower, the highest peak around.

They do climb it and the rest of the story is pure adventure with a love story besides and then the ending which I could have never guessed. A great find of a book.

Cass Timberlane, Sinclair Lewis, Random House, 1945, 390 pp
The #5 bestseller of 1945 is the most modern book on the list so far. It is about the present. Cass Timberlane is a judge in a small Minnesota town. He has been married once and is divorced. He falls in love with Jinny Marshland, who is in her mid-twenties. They finally marry and he adores her completely but she is young, restless and reckless.

The marriage survives but you never know until the last few pages whether or not it will. Lewis intersperses portraits of the marriages of other couples in the story which are wry and include class differences, the effects of WWII and a loosening of moral values.

His writing is very fine and although I felt the story was a bit unreal, it was highly entertaining.

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