Many early twentieth century novels explored the then still controversial topic of divorce, but none with the perseptivity of Kathleen Norris’s The Heart of Rachael.
Norris sets her novel among the Long Island country club set in the halcyon days before World War I.
The Heart of Rachael by Kathleen Norris
1916 bestseller #10. Project Gutenberg ebook #4915. My grade: B+.
Because she knew she could manage his house and thought she got on well with his daughter, Rachael Fairfax married a divorced man whom she did not love.
Step-daughter Carol grows into a teenager and Clarence Beckenridge’s drinking becomes acute alcoholism.
Rachael confides her unhappiness to Dr. Warren Gregory, Clarence’s physician and a member of their social set.
Rachael leaves Clarence, who agrees to give her grounds for divorce.
Then she marries Warren Gregory.
For a time, it’s a happy marriage.
Then Warren takes an interest in a young, aspiring actress, who also is part of their social set.
When Rachael confronts Warren about Magsie, he gives all the same excuses Rachael used for leaving Clarence.
Author Norris walks over, under, around, and through the experience of divorce.
Her people are believable both in their self-awareness and in their blind self-absorption.
Unfortunately, Norris felt compelled to manufacture a quasi-happy ending.
The manufactured ending reveals the fundamental fact of divorce: It doesn’t change people.
© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni