I suspect the reason B.F.’s Daughter made the bestseller list in 1946 had more to do with post-war malaise than with John P. Marquand’s writing, good as it is.
Though its story seems out-of-date, the novel is still good reading.
B.F.’s Daughter by John P. Marquand
Little, Brown, 1946. 439 p. 1946 bestseller #9. My grade: B.
After her wealthy industrialist father dies, Polly Brett goes to Washington where her husband is churning out war propaganda.
She and Tom quarrel.
He goes off, ostensibly to take refuge in his work.
Polly has no trouble meeting men who are also alone in Washington. Although Polly sees a certain attraction in an affair, she backs away.
Then Polly runs into a long-time acquaintance who tells her “nothing matters that happened before the war.”
When Polly learns Tom has a mistress, she begins to feel perhaps her pre-war marriage doesn’t matter.
The characters in this novel are well-drawn, complex people. Contemporary readers may find them old-fashioned—imagine not having sex just out of a sense of personal integrity!—but they are none the less believable individuals.
Today the idea that one simply walks away from an unhappy marriage is taken as a truism rather than an epiphany.
That’s not a criticism of B.F.’s Daughter, but of our culture.
© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni