There are many pounds of entertaining reading on the 1947 bestseller list for 21st century readers. Novel buyers that year got plenty for their money.
My favorite is the weighty novel of the Confederacy, House Divided by Ben Ames Williams. Williams really makes history come alive. He knows how to present information naturally, in “how was your week?” sorts of conversations.
William’s story provides insight into how people respond to an enemy occupation. (If you’ve ever lived in the South you know that even today southerners think of the Civil War as they time the damn Yankees occupied their land.) And, perhaps most important, Williams shows that all partisans of a cause are not identical in motivation or goals. Perhaps House Divided ought to be required reading for Bush administration foreign policy wonks.
My second choice is East Side, West Side by Marcia Davenport. This novel is about the aftermath of World War II on American civilians at home, particularly about how and why divorce became socially acceptable in our post-war era. In many ways, the society Davenport describes seems as remote and foreign as the 1860’s society Williams describes.
Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger and The Moneyman by Thomas B. Costain round out my list of best reading from the 1947 bestseller list. Both are historical novels that immerse readers into exotic locations replete with intrigue, suspense, and romance. In each case, the history is subservient to the entertainment, Both novels are exciting reading.
In its own way, each of these four novels takes readers into a world that doesn’t exist any more. But while there, they will meet people who seem remarkably human and familiar.
That’s my take on the 1947 bestseller list.
Linda Gorton Aragoni