Summertime by Denis Mackail, 5/5
When I selected this unassuming novel from my stacks of unread vintage books, I didn’t know what to expect. Delightfully, it turned out to be a sweet little romance, full of naive characters, 1920’s charm and dialogue that is occasionally very witty. Author Denis Mackail may be unknown now, but he was popular when it mattered most (during his lifetime) and since he published one novel every year from 1920-1938, I’m optimistic that more of his works will eventually find their way into my collection.
Why I read it: Just one more step towards the goal of having read every book I own!
I’ve always suspected that I belong to one of the thin ends on the bell curve of normality, so perhaps I should not have been so surprised that reading this book was like reading placards at the zoo about weird animal mating rituals. In this case, the strange animal is a human being who is definitely sure that being married is the key to their happiness and isn’t too hung up on the minor details, like exactly who to marry or why. After all, if you’re determined to find a spouse, Welch argues that it’s just a simple case of creating a list of more or less arbitrary criteria that can be used to sort through participants in a tireless grind of date-interviews that goes on until you find someone who is either a) if you are a woman, a man who pays for everything and is infatuated with you thanks to your hard-to-get attitude or b) if you are a man, a woman who can be convinced to love you and is as young and beautiful as your status and economic resources merit.
As a guide to getting what you already know you want in a relationship, this book is both practical and disturbingly plausible. But for people who not only don’t know what they want, but doubt even the possibility of being able to predict what will actually make them happy, this book is worse than useless–it’s nauseating.
Why I read it: it was a gift from a family member.
I don’t think I’d ever read a “Christian romance” before, but now I feel as if I’ve read every single one ever written. Almost everything about this book was cliched, from the handsome widower trying to escape his grief to the beautiful and independent female doctor who develops an immediate (and spoiler temporary) disliking for him. To be fair, the archetypes were intrinsically appealing, it was a lot less preachy than could be expected, and there were even some artistic touches: an insightful sentiment here and there, or a deft description. But ultimately, nothing could compensate for deficiencies of plot and characterization, which were contrived, worn-out and predictable all around. The plot was especially lame–a Nancy Drew take on National Treasure with some “Touched by an Angel” thrown in; however, as an antidote to my last read, Kafka, it was not entirely unwelcome.
[Why I read it: my brother’s mother-in-law thought I might enjoy it and thoughtfully gave me a copy. There was no dust cover, so I thought it was historical fiction…]