When Kate Starr leaves art school to marry handsome Joseph Green, she plans to go on with her painting.
Though they are poor, Joe with his financial ability and social skills is destined for great things.
To-morrow Morning by Anne Parish
Harper & Brothers, 1927. 305 pp. 1927 bestseller #8. My grade:B+.
Before long Joe is handling investments for his wealthy Aunt Sarah.
Kate would like to paint, but there’s never time in her married life.
Within five years, Joe is dead.
Kind creditors tell Kate that Joe paid his bills before his death, and Aunt Sarah kindly refrains from mentioning her reduced finances are due to Joe’s get-rich-quick investments.
Just as Kate’s life had revolved around Joe, now it revolves around their son, Jodie.
Like his mother, Jodie has an artistic bent; like her, he’s not disciplined enough to pursue it.
Anne Parrish builds the plot the way an impressionist builds a portrait. Her characters are well-defined by a tiny bits of information slipped into the story in seemingly off-hand ways, by indirection and innuendo. If readers’ attention lags, they can miss some fact vital to the plot.
Mother and son each become aware of the other’s strengths and weaknesses, but they never share their insights.
Kate and Jodie never realize today is yesterday’s tomorrow.
The best of the 1925 bestsellers are none too good for contemporary readers. Although some are well-written, they are all museum pieces: They take readers to times and mindsets light years away from contemporary culture.
Aside from The Little French Girl and Arrowsmith, there aren’t any novels on the 1925 list whose plot I could remember a month after I finished the book. (The Little French Girl spent two years on the bestseller list. I reviewed it along with the 1924 bestsellers and it was my top pick for 1924 as well as one of my picks for the best of 2014 anniversary-year novels.)
In all honesty, I’m not sure I’d have remembered Arrowsmith if I hadn’t seen the film version, which, unfortunately, does justice to Sinclair Lewis’s novel.
With that discouraging introduction, I’ll suggest these may be worth a look:
The Perennial Bachelor by Anne Parrish is fascinating—but depressing—glimpse into the nineteenth century culture in which not only did men expect their female kinfolk to serve them, but the women expected it, too.
The Green Hat by Michael Arden is interesting today primarily for its technique. Neither plot nor characters are strong enough to be remembered for long.
The Constant Nymphby Margaret Kennedy has to be my third choice. It’s not a book I liked, but Kennedy’s writing is good.
My next blog post will preview the bestselling novels of 100 years ago where, I hope, we’ll find a wider selection of enduring novels.
The title character of The Perennial Bachelor, Victor Campion, is a virtual nonentity to all but his immediate family, including Anne Parrish’s readers.
Victor was his parents eighth child but first son.
The Perennial Bachelor by Anne Parrish
Harper & Brothers, 1925, 334 pp. 1925 bestseller #8. My grade: B.
Only three of the Campion girls lived past childhood. Victor was born the evening his father died in a riding accident.
Margaret Campion is a lovely but stupid woman. At her death, she makes Maggie, the eldest daughter, promise to take care of Victor.
Victor becomes his sisters’ life as he was their mother’s.
Parrish presents the story in not-quite-in-focus memories of various of the “three Campion girls” and Victor.
Readers see each sister trying desperately to conceal from the other sisters the pain of sacrificing her own dreams so Victor can have the best.
Details about the clothing, household habits, handicraft projects, and social activities of the family members from the Civil War period through the Jazz Age reveal the extent to which the Campion’s fortunes decline as they grow older.
The Campions are pathetic when they are young. As they get old, the senseless waste of four lives is painful to watch.
Readers will want a sunny novel as a chaser after The Perennial Bachelor.
From its title, I expected All Kneeling to be a religious novel and, in a perverse way, it is.
The main character, Christabel Craine, is an attractive young woman with modest talent for writing but enormous talent for making people think she deserves to be worshiped.
Growing up in an extended family of well-to-do, elderly relatives, Christabel learns to control those around her in socially acceptable ways. She says she has only the highest motives for doing whatever she pleases, and people believe her.
All but Uncle Johnny.
Uncle Johnny doesn’t think much of Christable’s writing or her conduct. The only credit he gives her is for not making people walk backwards from her presence.
Among literature’s self-centered females, Christabel stands out. She knows exactly what she is doing.
The fact that Christabel doesn’t violate laws or morality or even social conventions is doesn’t make her any less any less despicable — or any less fascinating.
All Kneeling has no plot to speak of; it is all about character. Anne Parrish paints Christabel and her circle with sure, tiny strokes, suggesting rather than telling.
Like a Monet painting, the little bits of this easy-reading novel add up to an insightful portrait.
by Anne Parrish
Harper & Brothers, 1928
My grade B+