Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Dinner at Antione's, Frances Parkinson Keyes
In 1949, this book was the #6 bestseller. It was #3 in 1948 and was reviewed in my post of September 11, 2006.

High Towers, Thomas B Costain, Doubleday & Company Inc, 1949, 371 pp
Another novel of historical fiction, High Towers was the #7 bestseller. The Le Moyne family at the turn of the 17th century had already built Montreal and driven the English out of Hudson Bay. The ten sons of the founder of Montreal carried on the dream of building an empire for France in the New World.

Jean-Baptiste, one of the younger sons, founded New Orleans. The story concerns the family and their dream, various love stories and the difficulties of dealing with the French king and the intrigues of his court. Felicite, who was abandoned by her mother in Montreal, is eventually adopted by Charles, the eldest brother and grows up to be a great heroine in New Orleans.

This novel was not as good as The Moneyman or The Black Rose, two of Costain's earlier books, but I didn't mind learning about the very beginnings of New Orleans, a city that figures often in American fiction.

Cutlass Empire, F Van Wyck Mason, Doubleday & Company Inc, 1949, 396 pp
Now we are back in the Caribbean, mid 17th century. Henry Morgan was an English Royalist, trying to help get rid of Cromwell and put Charles II on the throne. But things got too hot for him in England and he ended up a freebooter in the area of Jamaica. After many adventures against the Spanish, he finally prevails, but he is a hot-headed dare-devil and disregards all authority. His daring almost does him in time after time.

Good story, never boring, although long and I learned more about that period of history from yet another perspective. The book was the #8 bestseller of 1949.

Pride's Castle, Frank Yerby, The Dial Press, 1949, 312 pp
Another historical romance by good old Frank Yerby comes at #9 in 1949. This one is set in 1870-1890, the time of the Robber Barons. Pride Dawson wants to be one of them and very nearly succeeds. He was born a poor white Southern boy, he is big and strong and ruthless. His soft spot naturally is women. But he marries the wrong one (for her money, he hopes) and then spends his whole life chasing the one he really loves. She tries to be virtuous but succumbs to her passion for Pride. It ends in tragedy.

What is good about such books is the history I learn and the storytelling. What is bad is the stupid romantic stuff, though truthfully I suppose that stuff goes on in real life right up to today.

Father of the Bride, Edward Streeter, Simon and Schuster, 1949, 244 pp
This little piece of fluff was #10 on the bestseller list for 1949. It spawned two movies by the same title: one in 1950 starring Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor and a remake in 1991 with Steve Martin. It is a humorous look at the trials and tribulations of the father as the mother and daughter plan a huge wedding.

Streeter himself was a banker in New York City by profession, but also wrote humorous novels and articles for periodicals. So it goes in the world of letters.

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