Tuesday, February 28, 2006


The Song of Bernadette, Franz Werfel, The Viking Press, 1042, 575 pp
This book was #1 on the bestseller list for 1942. Bernadette was a common French girl from a small town who saw a vision of a blessed lady. She was happy with her vision because it brought her peace and joy in the midst of a very hard life. But the world got involved, in the form of government officials, the church and the thousands of regular people who believed in her vision. After being hassled for years, Bernadette finally found solace in a convent and a life of service to others. After her death she was canonized as a saint.

This is her very interesting story and is a good and true accounting of how the world at large reacts to miracles. It was also made into a movie and won Jennifer Jones an Oscar for Best Actress in 1944. It is available on VHS and is pretty good, if you like old movies. Of course, the book is better.

The Moon is Down, John Steinbeck, The Viking Press, 1942, 58 pp
This tiny book was #2 on the list. It takes place in an unnamed European town which was conquered by the Nazis. The townspeople put up resistance to the victors and do not lose heart.

I've been reading a biography of Steinbeck as I read through his books (John Steinbeck, Writer, by Jackson J Benson) and from there I learned that Steinbeck and other writers were formed into a group by FDR to do public relations during the war. The name of this group escapes me at the moment. So Steinbeck wrote this book to give Americans hope in case we were invaded. Interestingly, his is the only one that sold well enough to be a bestseller. It is very different from any other Steinbeck I have read, but you can tell it is him writing.

Dragon Seed, Pearl S Buck, The John Day Company, 1942, 378 pp
For some reason, I had avoided reading any Pearl Buck, but this was one of my favorite books from 1942. It was the #3 bestseller. She is a good storyteller with just the right balance of story, description and philosophy. In the book, China is being invaded by Japan and you get what this is like though the experiences of a farming family.

The message is how to resist evil and keep hope alive, how to fight for freedom and it is very moving. She touches on all the usual true values that are at the foundation of civilization. The book gave me a different picture of the Chinese than I had gotten from all those James Clavell books I used to read. Of course, the Japanese are the complete bad guys, which they continued to be all through the second world war.

This book was also made into a movie, but it is ludicrous with Katherine Hepburn as the mother of the Chinese family. Pulease.

And Now Tomorrow, Rachel Field, The Macmillan Company, 1942, 350 pp
Every bestseller list needs a pure romance novel and this was the one for 1942, coming in at #4. Two sisters are born into a rich family of textile mill owners near Boston. They lose both parents and are raised by their spinster aunt. The heroine, who tells the story, gets engaged to Harry, an executive at the mill, then she gets meningitis and goes deaf. Harry proceeds to fall in love with the sister behind the deaf girl's back.

Meanwhile the depression hits, there are unions and strikes and upsets in the rich family over this. A man from the worker side of town comes back as a doctor, cures the deaf sister, she finds out about Harry and in the end is planning to hook up with the doctor. Pretty predictable, slow moving and the heroine was weak.

Drivin' Woman, Elizabeth Pickett.
The only book on these lists so far that I couldn't find. It was #5. Anyone have it?

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