A Good Woman skewers Christian humbug

Emma Downes is a good woman. Deserted by her husband, she started a business, supported herself, raised their son, now a missionary in Africa, and became a force to be reckoned with in her church. A Good Woman by Louis Bromfield Frederick A. Stokes, 1927. 432 pp. 1927 bestseller #10. My grade: A. When natives […]

The Tribe That Lost Its Head gives faces to headlines

As The Tribe That Lost Its Head opens, Oxford-educated Dinamaula Maula, 22, is returning home to become chief of his people on the British protectorate of Pharamaul, 600 miles west of South Africa. From that beginning, Nicholas Monsarrat weaves a complex plot about complex people trying to govern a country moving from colonialism to independence. […]

My top pick for 1955: Something of Value

I had no difficulty picking my favorite of the 1955 bestsellers. Something of Value by Robert Ruark is head and shoulders above the rest. Marjorie Morningstar would be my number two choice of the best of 1955 bestsellers. Herman Wouk’s exploration of a start-struck girl’s growing up won’t ever go out of date, but it’s […]

Something of Value: Timely and timeless novel of Africa

Robert Ruark’s Something of Value is a gory and compassionate novel about Kenya that will fascinate readers and leave them with plenty to think about as well. Something of Value by Robert Ruark Doubleday, 1955, 566 pages. 1955 bestseller #6. My grade: A+. Peter McKenzie and Kimani, his Kikuyu pal, were raised together in Kenya. […]

Judgment House Destroyed by Stilted Dialog

The Judgment House is a complex novel about the marriage of a beautiful woman thwarted in love who settles for power. Jasmine Grenfel loves the poor but ambitious diplomat Ian Stafford, but marries the unpolished Rudyard Byng and the three million pounds he’s made in South Africa. Jasmine’s intelligence and social skills make their English […]