Literature with a capital L topped the 1928 bestseller list in the form of Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey. That novel’s entertainment value has plummeted as badly as the bridge. Forget that turkey.
Fortunately some non-literary novels from 1928 provide great reading.
The Strange Case of Miss Annie Sprague is my top pick. Louis Bromfield weaves together threads as disparate as stigmata and the American frontier into a complex novel that raises more questions than it answers. Bromfield’s “I’m just reporting this” narrative style leaves readers wondering there’s really a sordid story beneath the surface of the novel or if the dirt is all in their minds.
Second place on my list is a tie between Clarie Ambler by Booth Tarkington and All Kneeling by Anne Parish. Both books are about self-centered women who spend their lives deliberately constructing a public image. Claire has an occasional moment when she realizes the immorality of using other people. Such insight never occurs to Christable Craine.
Third place goes to Vina Delmar’s Bad Girl, an inside view of a teenage marriage doomed by poverty. Delmar deserves better than third place, but her subject is just too depressing. I cannot forget Bad Girl, but I wish I could.
Swan Song is great reading if you’ve read the rest of John Galsworthy’s Forsyte saga. If not, pass it up.
One final note. I haven’t yet been able to find a copy of Old Pybus by Warwick Deeping, which was number 7 on the 1928 bestseller list.