Thursday, August 10, 2006


This post contains the first five of the top 10 bestsellers from 1947.

The Miracle of the Bells, Russell Janney
This book was #4 in 1946 and is reviewed in the post Books Read From 1946, Part One.

The Moneyman, Thomas B Costain, Doubleday & Company Inc, 1947, 434 pp
This is historical fiction, set in France at the end of the Hundreds Year War with England. Jacques Coeur was the "moneyman" of Charles VII. He is also a highly successful merchant and has stores all over France. I would say he is the founder of what we know today as malls.

It was a treacherous time with all sorts of people trying to gain favor at court and trying to eliminate anyone who gets in their way. The Moneyman finances a war in which the English are finally defeated, at least in one area of France. Jacques' goal is to end war, wipe out chivalry (which has deteriorated into outmoded customs) and engage the world in commerce. He has influence with the King through the King's mistress, but she is dying.

Along comes Valerie, originally a peasant girl, who is the spitting image of Agnes, the King's mistress. Coeur cooks up a scheme to replace Agnes with Valerie and includes educating Valerie into the ways of a woman at court. But Coeur has major enemies at court and finally they defeat him. Valerie has meanwhile fallen in love with Coeur's best friend and after Coeur's defeat is free to marry him. Love in the time of commerce.

It is a good story, well-told and deals with greed, injustice, lack of honor, loyalty and love. It was #2 on the bestseller list.

Gentleman's Agreement, Laura Z Hobson, Simon and Schuster, 1947, 275 pp
At #3 is this book about anti-semitism, which was also made into an award winning movie. Phil Green is a magazine writer, just hired for a new position at a New York magazine with an assignment to write a series on anti-semitism. It is post World War II. He decides that the only way to get a handle on the assignment is to "become" a Jew for six weeks.

Phil is a widow and has a love affair going with Kathy, his boss's niece. As he goes through the various experiences of prejudice, it affects the relationship with Kathy, who is afraid to stand up to prejudice even though she considers herself free of it.

Very interesting story and good treatment of it. The writing style is a bit awkward with too much of what the main characters are thinking. I'm sure it made bestseller status because of its controversial topic. Until I read this book, I had no idea there was this much awareness of anti-semitism or that there was writing being done about it in the 1940s.

Lydia Bailey, Kenneth Roberts, Doubleday & Company Inc, 1947, 488 pp
At #4 is more historical fiction written by a master of the form. Albion was the nephew of American Federalists in the early 1800s. He was trained as both a lawyer and a farmer. In the story, he gets caught up with an avaricious young woman who is trying to get a large amount of money due to her family, who has claims on a merchant ship which was illegally captured by the French. She also has designs on Albion. He takes on her case as a lawyer.

Thus begins a series of adventures which take Albion to Tahiti, Africa and Tripoli. Along the way, he finds his true love, Lydia Bailey. He also acquires a life-long friend in Tahiti, King Dick, who is a legendary hero in that land and a bold, outrageous character. Albion and King Dick fight wars in both Tahiti and Tripoli.

The point of the story is that self-serving politicians and evil men spoil everything but while many people of honor lose because of this, Albion and Lydia win in the end. It is mostly a page-turner except for a slow section near the end. All of these wars were part of the war of 1812, which I knew very little about before reading this book. It was a complicated war which also involved the Barbary pirates on the Mediterranean and Napoleon Bonaparte. No less complicated than some of today's wars.

The Vixens, Frank Yerby, The Dial Press, 1947, 347 pp
I only read this because it was #5 on the bestseller list for 1947. It was not good at all. The idea was good: New Orleans just after the Civil War with Yankees, defeated southerners, the freed Negroes and the scalawags (southern people who had profited from the war.) There is even a southerner who had opposed slavery and fought for the North during the war.

But Yerby wrote an unlikely love story with flat characters. It is disjointed, full of cliches (all of the women whirl when they get emotional) and it was actually kind of embarrassing to read.


  1. How does one whirl? It sounds kind of like when you were a little kid and you would put your arms out and spin until you were so dizzy that you fell over and then laid and watched the sky spin around. Yeah, I loved doing that. But, that can't be what he means, right?

  2. Well, actually yes. But it was just a half circle whirl. You know, instead of just turning and leaving the room, a woman whirls and leaves the room. It means she is really feeling emotional in some way. Too much drama!

  3. Anonymous9:25 PM

    I am grateful to have the "whirl thing" explained; I had no clue!

    From A to Z