None of the novels on the 1932 bestseller list are great books. Three of them, however, are insightful character studies that are well worth reading today.
First place in my list is the 10th place novel on the list: Three Loves by A. J. Cronin. Cronin tells the story of a passionate woman who devotes herself first to her husband, then to her son, and then to God, only to find none of them is willing to do what she wants them to do. Three Loves, in my opinion, is Cronin’s best novel, far better than the medical-religious tales for which he is best known.
My second place honors are shared by two novels shaped in very different ways by the French battlefields of World War I.
Magnolia Street by Louis Golding looks at the relationship—or more precisely the lack of relationship—between Jews and gentiles on a single English city block. As a novel, Magnolia Street is disjointed and repetitious; as a living microcosom, it’s heartbreaking.
Old Wine and New by Warwick Deeping tells the story of returning vet who finds himself old, redundant, and unworthy of notice by the bright young things who weren’t over there. Solid story telling and characters who do whatever’s necessary to get up after life’s hard knocks make this novel good reading.