on May 3, 2001
A story about marriage set in the middle of WW2. Polly Fulton, daughter of the industrial giant Burton Fulton (B.F.), was going to be married to her long time friend and almost too level-headed boyfriend Bob prior to WW2. They've been in love with each other for quite some time. However, prior to their announcing their engagement, Polly discovers Tom Brett, a more wild and more in need of motherly maintanence. Fearing a life of dullness with Bob, she calls off her engagement to Bob and announces that she will marry Tom, much to B.F's disappointment.
However, at the outbreak of WW2 Tom's job takes him to work in DC where he has a job with the war department. Polly lives in New York and she has problems communication with Tom on account that Tom is very busy. Polly, sensing stress with their marriage, decides to pay Tom a visit. Instead of acting like they missed one another, there is even more tension and arguing. Polly suspects that Tom is having an affair.
The story involves how Polly is raised by her father, B.F. He is controlling and very powerful. Naturally, she respects him but her life is managed by her father. It was her way of rebelling when she dumped Bob and married Tom. However, Polly grows up to be like her father and we discover that Tom has the same sort of reaction she had to be controlled: he runs away from their marriage.
This is the first Marquand book I've read. The writing was 1st rate, however, the sequence of events in the book vary -- sometimes you are in the present and sometimes you are in the past, as Polly recalls her youth. A little hard to get through at times because there wasn't much action and the payoff was a bit of a let down. However, I may check out this guy again, particularly his Pulitzer winning book. The details concerning life in the states during WW2 were also interesting.
on June 24, 2008
Burton Fulton is a nouveau riche industrialist with the common touch. He hobnobs with chauffeurs and mechanics at the companies he owns, and argues poignantly against the ideas of New Dealers who've never sweated a payroll. But now he has died, and Marquand makes him a metaphor for a dying era. World War II, we're told dozens of times, has Changed Everything.
Polly, B.F.'s daughter, is trying to stay married to one of those brainy new liberals, an FDR propagandist named Tom Brett, whom she fell for because his bohemian lifestyle and his stylish rudeness excited her. He's so boyish and slovenly, with his collar half up and half down, that she thinks he needs her. But ultimately, on a decisive weekend in D.C. that frames the novel, she'll dig up the truth that he's in love with his secretary. Flashbacks in the middle of the book prove to us that Polly should have married Bob Tasmin, a solid, old-moneyed neighborhood boy in whom her father saw strength and goodness.
There are other political paradigms being set up. Polly learns too late that her genetic gift for running things has been subverted by her destiny as a woman--an awareness that brings Marquand close to having written a feminist tragedy.
Polly is the guilty pleasure of the novel, real, brash, sexy, and heartbreakingly forlorn, a woman who charms diplomats with the (nowadays lost) feminine art of playful conversation--all bold thrusts and parries and finding anomalies in every response. After facing death on a mission over Japan, Tasmin returns with a gloves-off, post-nuclear candor that probably would have won Polly away from Tom if he'd shown flashes of it sooner. Too devoted to his family to sleep with Polly (despite his love for her), he sends her off to her uncertain but independent future, like America's--she has been through her own War that Changed Everything.
I read this to see what people were writing about during a previous wartime. The prose is from that strange gap of time when name writers were both intelligent and utterly commercial, with a foretaste of John Cheever, and the symbolism is classically satisfying, like Fitzgerald's. The drawback is that the New Dealers are so bitterly caricatured. A novelist has to operate under an almost sacred generosity of compassion, or at least forgiveness, or the reader feels used.
on April 1, 2011
This book is exceedingly average. There's nothing really wrong with it, except possibly the ending, and there's nothing really great about it, either. The titular character, Polly is extremely flighty, but also amusing. Of the people who populate her world, half of them are genuine, dynamic characters, and half are flat and undeveloped. The plot, what there is of it, keeps veering toward the suspenseful, then backs off. I would say that the descriptions of life in the first half of the 20th century seem genuine and accurate, but the book was published in 1946, so the author didn't have to imagine much in describing an evocative setting.
I generally give a brief synopsis of the storyline in my reviews, but that's pretty much unnecessary here. The book's about B.F.'s daughter, and that's about it.