Sunday, March 27, 2011
I finished this in time for the HBO series tonight. I found it a most surprising book. Certainly surprising in that is comes from the author of DOUBLE INDEMNITY and THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. Certainly surprising to be written by a man.
If you've never read it, there's no crime in the story. It's the story of a woman who loved her daughter too much. So much that she allowed this love to deprive her of every other relationship and the success she had earned.
That still was not the most surprising aspect to me. What fascinated me was the detail Cain provided for what was necessary to begin a restaurant business in the thirties, what was necessary to furnish a house, how mortgages worked, what people wore, How loans were arranged. what was necessary to begin a career as a waitress, a pianist, a singer. The detail drove the plot.
And perhaps the story interested me less than those details. I didn't particularly like Mildred. Was I meant to? None of the characters were likable really. Despite the lack of a crime, it still seemed like noir to me. If noir looks at people near the bottom that manage to fall still further, this is noir. There are few joyous moments in MILDRED PIERCE and yet unlike JANE EYRE (also on my mind lately), I seldom felt sorry for Mildred. And she has several really bad moments that made her hard to forgive.
It was different from any book I've ever read. Have you read it? What did you think?
And here is Megan's much more scholarly and lush take on it.