The 1951 bestseller list provides slim pickings for anyone looking for enduring stories, let alone great writing. A few months after having read the 1951 novels, I can recall little about any of them.
The Caine Mutiny is the story of a rebellion that grew out of boredom and the “what would happen if” thinking of a writer in the crew.
Melville Goodwin, USA is novel about a general with too little to do when the war is over and his wife whose life has been devoted to furthering her husband’s career.
You might not recall much of the characters or plot six months after laying down either the Wouk or the Marquand books, but you won’t have to drag your way through the pages.
Unfortunately, the threads that would make the novels universally memorable are buried in believable characters, plausible plots, and precise prose. You won’t come away from either book able to whistle its theme–which is a requirement of great fiction.
Linda Gorton Aragoni