Keyes missed boat with ’52 novel


Ornate mansions reminiscent of Mississippi riverboats were the inspiration for Steamboat Gothic. Like the architecture, Frances Parkinson Keyes’ novel is massive, ornate, and richly detailed. But like its architectural counterpart, the novel lacks the realistic characters that are the literary equivalent of indoor plumbing. And the book is so long, I kept wishing Keyes had been inspired by Bauhaus.

The story concerns Clyde Batchelor, an orphan boy who makes a fortune as a riverboat gambler. He woos and wins a Civil War widow, Lucy Page, and settles her in a Louisiana mansion.

The two live happily ever after, happily, that is, except for problems created by Lucy’s two children. Bushrod, an unpleasant child, grows into a thoroughly despicable man. Cary, the apple of her stepfather’s eye, is a delight until on her honeymoon she falls in love with a man other than her husband.

The last half of the novel traces the adventures of Cary’s son, Larry, as he grows to manhood during World War I. Larry inherits not only the family real estate, but the consequences of wrongs committed by his grandparents. He triumphs in the end, but by then nobody cares.

Steamboat Gothic
Frances Parkinson Keyes
Julian Messner, 1952
560 pages
1952 Bestseller #5
My grade: C-

Photo credit: “Steamboat 3” uploaded by Des1gn

© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda Aragoni

I'm passionate about helping people learn through the medium of nonfiction writing. Although I occasionally have an idea of my own, I mostly build education tools by recycling and repurposing other folks' ideas.

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