The 1923 bestseller list doesn’t include any great books, but it includes a trio that I’d like in my personal hardback collection: a light, but thoughtful romance and two very different thrillers.
The Enchanted April enchanted me
My favorite 1923 bestselling novel is The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim. It’s a sunny novel, full of descriptions that made me laugh out loud before reading the lines aloud to savor their sounds.
Beyond that, though, the novel is wise and reflective. The four female leads discover their unhappiness is due more to their attitudes than to their circumstances.
A little vacation away from home, housework, husbands, and London’s rain, give them enough physical and mental rest that they can see their lives are really pretty good.
Running through the novel is the suggestion that life is to be enjoyed as it happens. Living in the past, as Mrs. Fisher is inclined to do, or loathing the present in anticipation of happiness in heaven as Rose does, are as unsatisfactory as Lottie’s and Lady Caroline’s teeth-gritting through every day.
If The Enchanted April sounds too feminine for you, my two other top picks from 1923 may be more appealing.
Wanderer of the Wasteland left me gasping
Zane Grey’s The Wanderer of the Wasteland pits man against Mother Nature and against his human nature. The plot is not a typical western either. Grey has some surprises that show real mastery of his craft.
The wasteland of the novel is Death Valley. It looks inhospitable when seen from the highway. Zane Grey takes readers there on foot, to experience a climate that’s not just hot, but poisonous. Grey’s descriptions left me gasping.
The Sea Hawk had unusual 16th century view
My third choice from the 1923 bestseller list is another thriller about hunk with a cranium: The Sea Hawk by Rafael Sabatini. The Sea Hawk is an action thriller; it’s easily to imagine Errol Flynn playing Sir Oliver in a film version of the story.
The conflict in The Sea Hawk is man against man: Sir Oliver Tressilian will tackle anyone who stands in his way, whether they be Spanish, Islamic, or his own half-brother.
Though the novel is very physical, Sabatini gives Sir Oliver brains and a developing moral sense that, along with the context of state-sponsored piracy in the 16th century, raise The Sea Hawk above the slash-and-burn level.
That wraps up my reading of the 1923 bestsellers.
Through the first week in September, I’m going to be picking up some novels I missed when they should have been reviewed a couple of years ago.