The French Lieutenant’s Woman

John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman is the sort of book that would-be novelists with beer and beards discuss in existential terms. The woman of the title is Sarah Woodruff, a young English woman enamored of and jilted in 1867 by a Frenchman, whose whore locals in Lyme Regis assume her to be. Charles Smithson, […]

Couples all look alike with their clothes on

John Updike’s 1968 bestseller,  Couples,  is about a clique of 10 couples, which is roughly five times as many as any self-respecting novel should have. The couples live in a small New England village called Tarbox, somewhere within a longish commute of Boston. The couples are the usual Kennedy presidency era suburbanites in the 1960s […]

Mr. Britling Sees nuanced view of Great War

In Mr. Britling Sees It Through, H. G. Wells gives an account of World War I from the perspective of an intellectual with an optimistic view of human nature. The title character, Mr. Britling, is a moderately well-known writer, who pens essays and articles from his study in Essex, England. Mr. Britling Sees It Through […]

The Private Life of Helen of Troy, trophy wife

Menelaos was understandably upset after Paris violated the sacred laws of hospitality by running off with his wife, Helen. The Private Life of Helen of Troy by John Erskine Bobbs-Merrill, 1925. 304 p. 1926 bestseller #1. My Grade: B. Menelaos and his pals followed Paris to Troy, hell-bent on revenge. After a 20-year siege, they […]

Europa: The Days of Ignorance isn’t a smart pick

Robert Briffault packed Europa with wise and witty sentences. Unfortunately, he neglected to include a plot in the novel. What story there is concerns Julian Bern, a deep thinker. Europa: The Days of Ignorance  by Robert Briffault Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1935. 510 pages. 1935 bestseller #10. My grade: C-. Julian spends a lot of his […]