Testimony of Two Men, one his own worst enemy

island is central image on dust jacket of "Testimony of Two Men"
Islands can be emotional as well as physical.

Taylor Caldwell begins Testimony of Two Men where more usual novels would have ended: Dr. Jonathan Ferrier has been acquitted of the murder-by-botched-abortion of his young wife, Mavis.

Unable to live among people who doubted his innocence, Jon has sold his practice to young Robert Morgan, who, of candidates Jon interviewed, seemed least likely to do harm.

Robert feels something akin to awe of Jon, for his culture as much as for his brilliant medical skill.

Jon finds Robert’s conventional, mamma’s boy behavior amusing.

Jon’s brother, Harald, made a marriage of convenience to a rich widow. She’s dead; Harald is living on an island with her nubile daughter, whom he wishes to marry.

When Robert sees Jenny, he’d like to marry her, too.

Jon thinks Jenny is a whore and Harald one of her sex partners.

Taylor Caldwell makes the novel part mystery, part romance, but always keeps her focus on the psychological development of her characters.

Jon’s insulting manner with people he thinks cruel, incompetent, or corrupt make him his own worst enemy.

Fortunately, he has some good friends who come to his rescue.

Caldwell wraps up the novel with enough of Jon’s hostility showing to prove she’s a good novelist.

Testimony of Two Men by Taylor Caldwell
Doubleday, 1968, Book Club Edition, 600 pp. My grade: A-.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Queed’s ‘cosmos is all Ego,’ his story all pleasure

Sharlee Weyland tells Queed of his deficiencies
Sharlee Weyland tells Queed of his deficiencies

Queed is a witty, charming, romantic comedy about a brilliant but decidedly un-charming young man with the emotional intelligence of a newt.

Called “The Professor” by all but his two friends whose surname he bears, Queed moved to Richmond, VA., at the request of the father he has never met. When the book opens, Queed is writing the definitive text on evolutionary sociology while waiting for a further communication from his parent.

By accident, Queed meets Miss Sharlee Weyland. He strikes her as “the most frankly and grossly self-centred person she had ever seen in her life.”  Sharlee also finds him pitiable. She gets the city’s most eligible bachelor, Charles Gardiner West, to wrangle an editorial-writing job for Queed on the local paper.

Faced with dismissal for “crushing all the interest out of any subject he touches,” Queed sets out to master editorial writing. In the process, he grows to know his adopted city, finds a passion for the news business, and develops some self-awareness and empathy.

By contrast, the well-connected West flounders when his charm fails to conceal his lack of character.

Henry Sydnor Harrison sets his story against the background of South rising above the debilitating attitudes of Reconstruction. The novel ridicules the ridiculous aspects of Queed’s self-absorption without either attacking or excusing the man. Harrison shows Queed maturing without shaking off entirely the behaviors he learned as a child. That realism elevates Queed from a pleasant story to a serious study of emotional growth.

And Harrison throws in enough laugh-out-loud lines to make the study enormous fun to read.

by Henry Sydnor Harrison
Houghton Mifflin Co.
The Riverside Press
1911 bestseller # 4
Project Gutenberg EBook #14303
My grade: B+
© 2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni