Goodbye, Janette. Sorry to have read you.

name Harold Robbins in large red type, title smaller, both superimposed on woman’s faceHarold 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.

All that happens in the first third of the novel.

It goes downhill from there.

Don’t even say hello to Goodbye, Janette.

Goodbye, Janette by Harold Robbins
Simon and Schuster. ©1981. 382 p.
1981 bestseller #7. My grade: D-

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

Sir Mortimer Is Aptly Named

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Mary Johnson’s Sir Mortimer is the story of an Elizabethan gentleman pursuing fortune and fair maiden.

Sir Mortimer commands one of four ships in a fleet under Admiral Sir John Nevil, who has the Virgin Queen’s approval to prey on Spanish shipping and Spanish colonies.

At his best, Sir Mortimer is a prig trying to appear noble.

As his worst, he is a prig trying to look humble.

The story should be an adventure, with lots of swordplay and broken spars, but Johnson strangles excitement with taut summaries, such as “fifty paces from the river bank Henry Sedley received his quietus. ”

The novel pivots around the battle for Nueva Cordoba in which the British walk into a deadly trap. Afterward, Sir Mortimer, who had been captured by the Spanish, comes to his fellow officers with the confession that he broke under torture, revealed the British plan, and should bear full responsibility for the slaughter.

Sir Mortimer and readers learn much later that he was tricked into believing he’d betrayed his countrymen.

I’d like to see what a good writer could do with the idea of tricking a man into believing he’s betrayed his mates.

Johnson messes it up big time: Sir Mortimer is deadly dull.

Sir Mortimer: A Novel
by Mary Johnston
1904 bestseller #5
Project Gutenberg ebook #13812
My grade: C+

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni



Always More to Find in Lord of the Flies

Cover of 50th anniversary edition of Lord of the FliesWilliam Golding’s Lord of the Flies is such a familiar novel that many readers would be surprised to learn it was not a bestseller when it was  published in 1954. College students discovered the novel, and gave it the popularity that turned it into a classic.

The novel is about preteen English school boys who crash onto an uninhabited island while being airlifted out of a war zone. Without adult supervision, the boys form their own social groups for companionship. The group magnifies the power of the individual  and lets individuals rationalize their behavior as they’re doing what everyone is doing.

Before long, the boys fall into into the worst kind of adult behavior. Fighting. Torture. Murder.

Golding is a superb storyteller. Every detail has a purpose. The boys are vividly drawn, a realistic mix of memorable personalities — Ralph, Piggy, Jack — and walk-ons.

Golding makes clear that human nature, even that of innocent children, is sinful. Roger, initially just a face in the crowd, finds he has a talent for torture. And Ralph, the best of the boys, paves the way to murder by ignoring the request that he not reveal his new acquaintance’s nickname: Piggy.

Lest you think Golding was just an old crank with a sour view of the world, the same week I reread Lord of the Flies, newlyweds in Pennsylvania allegedly murdered a man because they wanted to do something together.

Golding would not have been surprised.

Lord of the Flies
By William Golding
Originally published in 1954 in Great Britian by Farber and Farber, Ltd.
50th anniversary ed. Perigee book published 2003 by Penguin Group
with introduction by E. M. Forster, biographical and critical note by E.K. Epstein,                                            
illustrations by Ben Gibson

[broken link removed 2016-03-09]

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni