My picks of the 1969 bestsellers

The three bestsellers of 1969 that retain the most value for 2017 readers each deal in very different ways with family relationships: The Godfather by Mario Puzo, Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth, and The Promise by Chaim Potok. The Godfather is first a father. I suspect  The Godfather is known as a Mafia thriller because […]

The House on the Strand lacks curb appeal

In The House on the Strand, an historical novel meets a sci-fi novel. The two don’t get along well. Dick Young gladly accepts the offer of longtime friend’s Cornwall estate, Kilmarth, for his family for the summer. Dick and Magnus were in university together and remained close until Dick’s marriage. Dick’s wife, Vita, disliked Magnus […]

“The Pretenders” begins with a death, then decays.

Reviewers typically refer to The Pretenders as trash fiction and jump into a discussion of how another of Gwen Davis’s novels landed her in a libel suit some years later. Davis herself described The Pretenders as “a dazzling novel of the beautiful people.” I failed to be dazzled. The dead man whose funeral is the […]

The Promise: Cultural clash on personal level

In The Chosen, Chaim Potok explored how two brilliant teenage boys struggled to find a way to reconcile their orthodox Jewish faith with their academic interests. The Promise again brings Reuven Malther and Danny Saunders, now both graduate students, together around a problem to which they respond differently. Reuven meets a famous Jewish scholar who, […]

Naked Came the Stranger: It’s not pretty.

Let’s get right to the point. Penelope Ashe’s novel Naked Came the Stranger is trash. As story opens Gillian Blake, co-host of radio show Billy & Gilly, has just learned via the services of Ace-High Private Investigators, Inc., that Billy is having an affair with the show’s recently hired assistant producer. Gilly is incensed. It […]

The Seven Minutes: A case against censorship

The Seven Minutes is a novel about a novel. An Oakland, CA, bookstore owner sells a pre-release copy of The Seven Minutes to undercover cops who arrest him for selling pornography. Shortly thereafter, a college boy from a good family confesses to rape and murder. He claims reading the French-printed copy of the novel, which […]