The Constant Image, Marcia Davenport, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1960, 253 pp
The #6 bestseller of 1960 was purely awful. It falls in that category of fiction by the likes of Danielle Steele: endless descriptions of clothing, jewelry, and furnishings; passages of mildly bad sex writing; the vacillating obsessive maunderings of a young woman in love with the wrong man. Perfect bestseller material for a certain type of female reader who is not me.
Set in Milan, the story makes a big deal about the difference in moral values between Americans and Italians. Of course, they are all rich and in fact, infidelity is still infidelity when such an amount of lip service is paid to the sanctity of family. Included is the old conventional wisdom that the men are expected to fool around but the women are either victims or sluts. As my straight-laced grandma used to say, "It takes two to tango."
I guess that is enough ranting. After all, it was my freely taken decision to read the bestsellers from 1940 onward and even books like this fit the premise: the popular books reflect the culture of the time.
(The Constant Image is justifiably out of print but available in libraries and through used book sellers.)