Best of 1925’s bestsellers are not so hot

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 Nymph by 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 Constant Nymph a novel about narcissists

Though penned in the 1920s, The Constant Nymph has a feel of the Woodstock Festival about it.

Cover art for "The Constant Nymph" shows girl with bunch of flowers

The Constant Nymph by Margaret Kennedy

William Heinemann Ltd., 1924; The Dial Press, Virago Modern Classic with  introduction by Anita Brookner, 1984, 336 pages.  1925 bestseller #2.  My grade: B-.

Albert Sanger, a 1920’s equivalent of a flower child, composes unappreciated work in an Alpine chalet in the company of a “circus” of children by two wives, his current mistress, and whoever takes him up on his lavish invitations to drop in.

Fellow composer Lewis Dodd, one of the more frequent visitors, has captivated 14-year-old Tessa.

When Sanger dies suddenly, a cousin approaching spinsterhood swoops in and carts Tessa and the younger children to England to be properly educated.

Cousin Florence also snares Lewis and carts him home to England to properly marketed.

The Sanger children and Lewis don’t take well to Florence’s intentions. Lewis realizes Tessa has always been faithful to him— meaning she’s always given him his own way—and he takes steps to secure her continued constancy.

Margaret Kennedy’s romantic characters are interested in nothing but themselves. Florence and her father, the most unromantic characters in the book, are the only ones that take any interest in people who can’t help them.

Kennedy spins a good yarn, but it’s essentially a trivial yarn. If the novel is to have any point, the reader will have to insert it.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni