The Winter of Our Discontent is a joy

As The Winter of Our Discontent opens, Ethan Allen Hawley is clerking for an Italian immigrant who bought Hawley’s grocery after Ethan’s father went broke and lost it. Ethan has a wife and two kids to support; some extra cash wouldn’t come amiss.

Sweet and funny, educated and articulate, Ethan escapes from the routine of his life in words. Ethan orates to the canned goods, engages in one-sided conversations with the banker’s red setter, and declaims to his children on patriotic ideals.

Joey Morphy inadvertently shows Ethan how to rob the bank next door to the grocery, and Ethan’s fertile imagination takes over from there.

Others in New Baytown are also looking for an easy buck. Some of the town leaders are trying to get hold of the only local site suitable for an airport. A grocery supplier offers Ethan kickbacks to secure orders. Ethan’s son is hoping to win an essay contest.

The Winter of Our Discontent holds pleasing and plausible surprises on every page. John Steinbeck merges a clever plot with characters that are more believable than most people I know. Beneath the novel’s superficial froth lie truths as durable as the sea that licks the New England coast.

The Winter of Our Discontent
By John Steinbeck
Viking, 1961
309 pages
1961 bestseller # 10
My Grade: A

© 2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Re-Creation of Brian Kent: Short and Overly Sweet

The Re-Creation of Brian Kent is a syrupy, sentimental novel about how Auntie Sue, a retired schoolteacher, helps a writer-turned-bank-robber become a writer again.

 


When small boat occupied by a drunken man washes up on the river bank by Auntie Sue’s Ozarks home, the spunky spinster sees  in him the son she’d always wanted. Even when she learns Brian Kent is  wanted for a bank robbery that included her own money, she is determined to rescue him.

Dried out, literally and metaphorically, Brian stays on with Auntie Sue, clearing trees for cropland and writing  a book.

When the book is done, Auntie Sue summons a girl she knows who can prepare a typewritten manuscript from  Brian’s handwritten draft. They fall in love, and after appropriate trials, the novel ends at the altar.

Because Auntie Sue is an artificial character around whom any plot will be implausible, Harold Bell Wright’s novel feels like a sermon. The sermon is, in Auntie Sue’s words, “Before you can DO anything that is worth doing, you must be something.”

Fortunately, the novel is short so you won’t  get sugar overdose.

The Re-Creation of Brian Kent
By Harold Bell Wright
1920 Bestseller #3
Project Gutenberg ebook #3625

Photo “Early Morning on the Buffalo” by OakleyOriginals shared under Creative Commons License.

©2010 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Project Gutenberg