To-morrow Morning examines time and opportunity

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+.

female art student sketching, about 1900
Student in turn of the century art class.

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.

©2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Dark Hester Lifts Curtain on Adult Growing Pains

Steam locomotive coming down the track
In-law troubles can make a woman want to run away or throw herself under a train.

Dark Hester is less dark than Anne Douglas Sedgwick’s earlier bestseller, Tante, but it, too, confronts the problem of growing older.

After burying her husband in India, Monica Wilmott returned with their infant son to England. By hard work and good management, she provided Clive with a happy childhood and an Oxford education.

She even selected a woman for him to marry.

When Clive married Hester Blakeston,  after the Great War, Monica couldn’t like her.

Everyone knew it, including Clive, but he hoped for the best.

‘We are all nothing more than children,’ thought Monica…And we discover, as we grow old, that we never grow up’

As the novel opens, a man about Monica’s age buys an adjacent farm. He makes clear he’s interested in Monica. Despite an instinct, supported by gossip, that he’s the wrong sort, Monica is attracted to Captain Ingpen.

Her daughter-in-law, however, is repelled by him.

Monica realizes the two have met before. By some sleuthing, she learns Ingpen and Hester were lovers.

That knowledge could break up Clive and Hester’s marriage.

It could also shatter the close mother-son relationship.

Monica and Hester are sufficiently well delineated that their parts are plausible, but Clive appears too bloodless to inspire the devotion of either woman.

Despite all that goes wrong, Sedgwick holds out the possibility that, given the right incentives, even adults can grow up.

Dark Hester
By Anne Douglas Sedgwick
Houghton Mifflin, 1929
300 pages
1929 bestseller #3
My Grade: B+

Photo credit: Puffing Billy by timobalk

 © 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni



So Big, a Cameo for Motherhood

Jacket cover of So BigEdna Ferber’s So Big is a gentle, thoughtful novel peopled with believable characters and edged in tears.

Selina Peake grew up wherever her father’s profession—gambling—took them. Life was an adventure to her father. He told Selina to relax and enjoy it:

‘The more kinds of people you see, and the more things you do, and the more things that happen to you, the richer you are. Even if they’re not pleasant things. That’s living. Remember, no matter what happens, good or bad, its’ just so much’—he used the gambler’s term, unconsciously,—’just so much velvet.

When her father dies, Selina goes to teach at a rural school in a Dutch farming community. She causes merriment by saying the fields of cabbage are beautiful and consternation by her frivolous, city clothes.

Within a year, she marries a farmer with no talent for farming. They have one child, Dirk, whom Selina calls by his childhood nickname, “So Big.”

Widowed before Dirk is 10, Selina takes over running the farm, making it profitable so that Dirk won’t have to be a farmer.

She teaches Dirk life isn’t an adventure, that something good isn’t just around the corner. Dirk believes her, and at the time she believes she’s telling the truth.

Dirk does what’s necessary to becomes a success short of outright illegality.

Though Selina and Dirk remain close, as she grows older, Selina senses that she failed her son.

The Pulitzer committee agreed with readers that So Big is a gem.

Read it and find out for yourself.

So Big
By Edna Ferber
© 1924, Doubleday
1924 bestseller #1
283 pages
My grade: A

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni