Sunday, January 19, 2014


The Edge of Sadness, Edwin O'Connor, Little Brown and Company, 1961, 460 pp

The bestseller list for 1961 had a good share of long books and this one, at #8, seemed longer than its pages. I have now finished reading the top 10 bestsellers for that year.

Edwin O'Connor wrote in that wordy 1940s style, aspects of which were over-explaining and repetition. I am quite weary of the style and got weary of the story long before it was over.

Novels about religious themes still made the bestseller lists throughout the 1960s. The Edge of Sadness, about the troubles of a Catholic priest, also won the Pulitzer Prize in 1962. God was not dead yet.

Father Hugh Kennedy is middle-aged when the novel opens but his entire life story gets told as well as the history of an Irish-American family who influenced him. No sexual troubles but a period of alcoholism from which he recovered and the loss of his mother at a young age had lasting effects.

O'Connor in my mind is the Irish John O'Hara. His novels are all set in Boston and he wrote about an era that was passing away during the middle decades of the 20th century. 1961 was the year John F Kennedy took office and American Protestants were curious about Catholicism not to mention queasy about having the first Catholic president. That explains to me the bestseller status and the Pulitzer.

While the novel was only moderately good it was interesting from a historical/sociological viewpoint.

(The Edge of Sadness is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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