Harold Robbins’ 1981 bestseller Goodbye, Janette is a new low for a writer I thought couldn’t get any worse.
The book opens as the Allies are about to take over occupied France. A French collaborator named Maurice and a German general are preparing to escape separately.
They have put Jewish companies they operated during the war in the name of the beautiful Polish woman the General rescued from the concentration camps.
By convincing his uncle that he worked undercover for the Allies, Maurice will assure he inherits the title Marquis be Beauville. Then he’ll marry Tanya, giving her and her daughter, Janette, French citizenship. The General will join his family in South America.
When life returns to normal, all parties will profit.
That might have become a good novel.
Robbins turns it into a visual encyclopedia of sexual perversions.
After literally taking a whipping from Maurice, Tanya outsmarts him. They remain married, live more or less under the same roof.
Tanya isn’t aware that Maurice has started molesting Janette until she becomes pregnant after a week of being raped and beaten by Maurice and his male lover.
The Establishment is the last novel in Howard Fast’s trilogy about the family of Dan Lavette, the son of an immigrant fisherman who made and lost two fortunes.
Here, as in Second Generation, Fast focuses on Dan’s daughter Barbara who married a Jewish soldier of fortune. Barbara’s writing produces a good income without her touching her inheritance.
Husband Bernie operates a garage. He works very hard, barely turns a profit, and is bored. He jumps at the chance to fly planes to Israel to prepare the new nation for a forthcoming war against Arab countries with established armies.
He’s killed in Israel.
Reporting Barbara did from Nazi Germany brings her to the attention of the McCarthy hearings. She’s sentenced to six months in a federal prison for women.
Meanwhile, Barbara’s brother Tom is becoming a power broker, part of the wealthy establishment men who select the people whom Americans will elect by popular vote to run the country.
Fast’s novels cry out for video treatment: The main characters are merely sketched, there are swift scene changes, and the historical context has been lost in the intervening 40 years.
Masterpiece could make Fast’s novels come alive.
Fast merely makes them hurtle through history.
The Establishment by Howard Fast
Houghton Mifflin, 1979. 337 p.
1979 bestseller #8 My grade: B