Picking the 1943 bestsellers to which I wouldn’t give shelf space is easier than choosing three keepers. Five of the 10 have withstood the ravages of time.
My favorite is Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The novel is the quintessential American Dream tale. Armed only with grit, love, and a belief in the value of education, a poor Brooklyn in a family rises above poverty. What teacher can fail to tear up at the picture of Francie and Neely Nolan reading each night from the Protestant Bible and collected works of Shakespeare?
For second place, I’ll choose William Saroyan’s The Human Comedy. another novel about growing up in tough times. A boy too young to fight gets a job delivering telegrams during World War I. When those telegrams are sent by the War Department, the lad learns about the horrors of war far from the front lines.
For third place, I’ll pick a novel about the other end of life. Mrs. Parkington by Louis Bromfield is a study of a remarkable old lady living each day well. It beats John P. Marquand’s So Little Time by a nose. Although Marquand is the better writer, and his story the more realistic, I choose Bromfield for its emotional tone.
Bromfield’s Mrs. Parkington inspires readers; Marquand’s Jeff Wilson saddens them.