The Foxes of Harrow, Frank Yerby, The Dial Press, 1946, 408 pp
This book was #6 on the bestseller list for 1946. It is another story about New Orleans, sugar growers, etc., but earlier in time than The River Road.
It is a rough and ready time; a violent time of building something new and changing social conventions. The main character comes to New Orleans as a nobody, the son of Irish immigrants who had settled in the North. He is a gambler, strong and ruthless and full of self-confidence.
Quite a good read, as he makes wrong decisions in love, right moves in business and of course comes out in the end with his insouciance intact.
Arch of Triumph, Erich Remarque, D Appleton-Century Company Inc, 1945, 455 pp
The fact that this was the #7 bestseller in 1946 shows how much the war still affected Americans in this year. It is more literary than most bestsellers, even back then.
A German surgeon is a refugee in Paris in 1941 or 1942, whichever year it was that Germany finally invaded France. He is "without papers" and knows the ropes of how to live this way and not get caught. Had he been caught, he would have faced being sent back to Germany and imprisoned. He has a love affair with a rather crazy woman, who could be a Simone de Beauvoir character.
It is a dark, unhappy but powerful story about displaced people who have moments of humor and even joy but are basically homeless in the world. It was one of my many favorites of the year.
The Black Rose, Thomas B Costain
Read in 1945, when it was #3 and reviewed in Books Read From 1945, Part One, posted on June 27, 2006.
B F's Daughter, John P Marquand, Little Brown and Company, 1946, 439 pp
The #9 bestseller is another war story. B F is a self-made millionaire, but originally a small town boy. His daughter, Polly, was raised in this nouveau riche environment with neighbors who had had their wealth for generations. She is married to one of the "brain trust" boys who now spends most of his time in Washington, DC, doing PR for the war.
She had had an earlier love, one of the rich neighbor boys, but she married Tom as an act of rebellion against her father and his lifestyle. She still has money of her own, however. It all comes to a head in the book and there is quite a bit of psychotherapy babble, but it is a good story. Marquand is a smooth, accomplished writer whose specialty is evoking the full scene of an area with all its types and classes. An enjoyable read with yet another aspect of the effects of war on American people at home.
The Snake Pit, Mary Jane Ward, Random House, 1946, 278 pp
Virginia is a young bride from Evanston, IL, living in New York City with her new husband. They have money worries and she feels overwhelmed in the city. She is a fiction writer.
She suffers a nervous breakdown and ends up in a mental hospital. The book is an account of her experiences there and an expose of how bad it is. She gets drugged, electric shocked, put in ice packs and straight jackets. Ward balances the horror with Virginia's sense of humor, miraculously retained despite her mental state. Virginia finally gets up the fight to get out.
This was the #10 bestseller in 1946 and belongs in the category of raising awareness about social ills in America. It was harrowing, pretty well done and made into a movie, which I have not seen.