Marjorie Morningstar is a bittersweet novel of a beautiful Jewish teenager whose theatrical ambitions and moral principles collide.
Marjorie Morgenstern’s decision to be an actress is an act of adolescent rebellion.
Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk
Doubleday, 1955. 565 pages. 1955 bestseller #1. My grade: B.
At 15, Marjorie has good looks, enough talent to shine in amateur theatrics, and enough sense to avoid promiscuous sex.
She hasn’t enough sense to see that Noel Airman, born Saul Ehrmann, is a loser: smart, talented, sexy, personable, but rootless.
For six years, Marjorie pursues Noel, who warns her he’s not the marrying kind, and the theater, which is equally unwilling to have her on any but sexual terms.
Marjorie isn’t willing to give up her virginity for an acting role, but to get Noel she might.
Herman Wouk sets Marjorie’s story between the Depression and World War II. Without preaching, Wouk makes clear that survival depends on maintaining traditional values—marriage, family, work, religion.
Although Wouk uses stock characters, the story works because Marjorie is so young.
Adults know what will happen to Marjorie, but she doesn’t.
She makes herself believe she is consumed by passion. In truth, she’s simply too embarrassed to admit a mistake.
Marjorie Morningstar is good reading—and highly recommended for parents and grandparents of teens.
© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni