Family Album

Front cover tells fans this is a Danielle Steel novel
A photo-less album

Danielle Steel’s Family Album is a 40-year dig into the personal lives of the Ward Thayer family.

As World War II draws to a close, silver screen sex pot Faye Price meets Ward Thayer while entertaining American troops at Guadalcanal.

The day he’s back in the U.S., Ward seeks her out.

People who don’t recognize Faye, know Ward. He’s the playboy heir to a vast fortune.

Despite the differences in their backgrounds and philosophies, they fall in love and marry. Within six years they have five children and a palatial lifestyle.

Unknown to Faye, they also have huge debts. Ward has kept spending while the family businesses went under.

Faye rolls up her sleeves and gets to work to cut their losses and start bringing income.

For 30 years, Faye is the real head of the family.

She becomes a film director and eventually persuades Ward to become a film producer.

While Faye and Ward repair the family fortunes, the trajectories of their children’s lives turn downward.

The characters in Family Album are like sock monkeys: They don’t develop in any noticeable way in 40 years.

Perhaps that’s why 15 hours after I finished reading it, I couldn’t remember what Family Album was about.

Family Album by Danielle Steel
Delacourt. 1985. 399 p.
1985 bestseller #9; my grade: C-

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

The Exhibitionist: The title reveals all

paperback copy of *The Exhibitionist* minus its front cover
The Exhibitionist lacks the decency to cover up.

My paperback copy of The Exhibitionist arrived minus a front cover.

That is what literary scholars call symbolism.

The Exhibitionist: A Novel by Henry Sutton
Fawcett Crest Book, 1968 [paper], 479 pp. 1967 bestseller #10. My grade: D-.

The Exhibitionist is a novel about film people who seem to spend most of their lives minus a front cover.

Or back cover.

The story begins in a small town in Montana, where a traveling salesman gets a young girl drunk, and seduces her.

Her father, himself the son of an unwed mother, brings her home where she bears a son, Amos Meredith Houseman.

When Amos is old enough, he is seduced by his high school drama teacher. Then Amos goes off to drama school, studies acting, and becomes film star Meredith Houseman.

Amos’s first wife, Elaine, has a child whom they name Meredith but call Merry.

Merry’s parents divorce, and each remarries.

Amos has several marriages, many liaisons.

Merry grows up anything but merry. She craves love and attention, but she’ll settle for attention.

Merry, too, goes into the film business.  She becomes a commercial success and a moral bankrupt.

Merry goes home to Montana to have her baby and “a new beginning.”

This depraved tale is rendered more reprehensible by the fact that  David R. Slavitt — Henry Sutton is a pseudonym —
can write.

Really write.

What a waste of talent.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Humor gives The Miracle of the Bells appeal

The Miracle of the Bells is a standard religious novel to which Russell Janney has added a dollop of humor. The humor increases the novel’s appeal but can’t disguise its poor quality.

Press agent William “Spats” Dunnigan  had met Olga when she was an innocent waif determined to be a star. He felt sorry for her and made sure she had a job to keep her in groceries. When opportunity arose, he catapulted Olga from stand-in to staring role.

Shortly after the film shoot ended, Olga died from lung damage suffered as a child. While explaining to the town priest that Olga wanted the church bells rung for her funeral, Spats gets an idea. He’ll have all the bells in Coaltown rung for four days before the funeral, turning it into a promotion for the film studio.

Spats not only achieves his publicity objectives, but also turns the town upside down. It’s a miracle! But there’s no reason to think Spats is a better man because of it.

If Russell Janney weren’t so clever with his odd characters and funny lines, the novel would fall flat. For substance, readers will have to look elsewhere. The Miracle of the Bells offers nothing but fun.

The Miracle of the Bells
By Russell Janney
Prentice Hall, 1946
#1 bestseller in 1947
My grade: C+
© 2006 Linda Gorton Aragoni