Saratoga Trunk side-steps great story for mere diversion

Edna Ferber’s Saratoga Trunk holds the germ of a great novel for another author to write.

The novel opens with a a press conference. “Colonel” Clint Maroon wants to tell how industrialists ripped off America. As his wife predicted, reporters won’t listen.

The rest of the novel is a flashback to how Clint and Clio Dulaine met in New Orleans, fell in love, and decided to pool their resources to get rich quick.

Clio sent Clint off to Saratoga Springs, New York,  posing as an authority on railroads to set up a scam among the millionnaires. She followed posing as a widowed French countess.

Clio’s scam might have worked, except that Clint found his Texas intimidation skills an easier avenue to big money than playing poker.

Saratoga Trunk is a real page turner. Ferber’s narrative has more bubble and vitality than Saratoga water. Even its historical characters are all larger than life. Saratoga Springs itself sparkles as the American playground of the rich and famous in the 1870s.

But the real story—the one Clint wanted to tell—gets shunted aside. Taylor Caldwell would have made a good novel from this material. Edna Ferber merely made an entertaining one.

Saratoga Trunk
by Edna Ferber
Doubleday, Doran
1941 bestseller #9
My grade: C+
©2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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