Wings is the second Danielle Steel novel to make the 1994 bestseller list and, like fourth-placed The Gift, and eighth-placed Accident, it breaks from Steel’s romance formula: Its heroine, Cassie O’Malley, prefers overalls to Dior gowns.
Growing up on rural airstrip and the daughter of a WWI pilot, Cassie dreams of flying, which her dad and mom think unsuitable for a woman. Her father’s wartime buddy and post-war partner, Nick Galvin, recognizes Cassie’s determination and natural talent. He secretly gives her flying lessons.
After Cassie wins a flying competition, Desmond Williams, whose firm builds aircraft, offers her a contract that entails testing new aircraft and making public appearances.
Nick thinks Desmond is up to no-good. He’s especially leery of Desmond’s plan to have Cassie repeat the round-the-world flight on which Amelia Earhart disappeared. Nick and Cassie fall out over it.
When World War II breaks out, Nick goes to England to train pilots. He never writes to Cassie.
Having made her point that women need not be confined to the kitchen and bedroom, Steel wraps the story up neatly, pairing off Cassie with Nick whose interest in Cassie, like Desmond’s, revolves around aircraft.
When Kate Starr leaves art school to marry handsome Joseph Green, she plans to go on with her painting.
Though they are poor, Joe with his financial ability and social skills is destined for great things.
To-morrow Morning by Anne Parish
Harper & Brothers, 1927. 305 pp. 1927 bestseller #8. My grade:B+.
Before long Joe is handling investments for his wealthy Aunt Sarah.
Kate would like to paint, but there’s never time in her married life.
Within five years, Joe is dead.
Kind creditors tell Kate that Joe paid his bills before his death, and Aunt Sarah kindly refrains from mentioning her reduced finances are due to Joe’s get-rich-quick investments.
Just as Kate’s life had revolved around Joe, now it revolves around their son, Jodie.
Like his mother, Jodie has an artistic bent; like her, he’s not disciplined enough to pursue it.
Anne Parrish builds the plot the way an impressionist builds a portrait. Her characters are well-defined by a tiny bits of information slipped into the story in seemingly off-hand ways, by indirection and innuendo. If readers’ attention lags, they can miss some fact vital to the plot.
Mother and son each become aware of the other’s strengths and weaknesses, but they never share their insights.
Kate and Jodie never realize today is yesterday’s tomorrow.
Thirteen Truly Great Things of Life there are. No life can have less. No life can have more. All of life is in them. No life is without them all: Dreams, Occupation, Knowledge, Ignorance, Religion, Tradition, Temptation, Life, Death, Failure, Success, Love, Memories.
In Their Yesterdays, Harold Bell Wright does all the wrong things and turns out an exactly right novel, brimming with tears of joyous nostalgia.
A little boy and little girl grow up separated only by a hedge in a rural community. After she moves away, they lose touch, but each remains a central figure in the other’s memories. Grown to adulthood, they face the normal challenges of life strengthened by the values they learned as children.
Eventually the grown up boy and girl meet again, marry, and raise a family.
Wright has a knack for fastening emotion in a phrase like a bee in amber. He tells of the lad “stretched on a cross of nothing to do.” He says, “One need not die to orphan a child,” and “Life itself is nothing less than this: a continual trying again.”
Wright doesn’t give his characters names. He doesn’t tell where they lived, what they did for a living, or relate any but the vaguest suggestions of the piviotal experiences of their lives. He outlines the entire tale in the proem, quoted above, and organizes each chapter in exactly the same manner. The book should be a disaster. Yet somehow Wright makes the characters so vivid they sing on the page.
And this was the true glory and the fulfillment of their lives…that they could see themselves renewed in their children and in their children’s children.
In This Freedom, A.S.M. Hutchinson tells the story of the marriage of two people who never fall out of love, but fall out of harmony.
From her high chair, Rosalie Aubyn found the world of men exciting, the world of women dull. She decides to become part of men’s world as a banker — a striking choice in the early 1900s when women in offices were a rarity.
Intent on a celibate life, Rosalie suddenly finds herself passionately in love and as suddenly married to Harry Occleve, a rising lawyer.
Rosalie views running a home like running her business: As CEO she plans, hires, and delegates housekeepers, cooks, nannies, and governesses.
Although Harry is proud of his wife’s career accomplishments, he feels she needs to be more of a mother and homemaker. He sees their children are remote, undemonstrative, and unloving.
Hutchinson’s character portraits mingle precision with nuance. He relates the tale in a way that makes readers understand why each of the main characters feels and acts as he or she does.
The novel’s themes are timeless, but in the last 50 years they have ceased to be topics of real public discussion. Rereading This Freedom might be a useful way to reignite debate once more about the “proper role of women,” that loaded phrase implying a broad range of behavior with significant implications for society.