Thoughts by Josephine Johnson, Simon and Schuster 1934, 231 pagesChallenge: Classic Club and Back to the Classics Challenge PLACES I HAVE LIVED (Missouri) Month/Day Category Genre: Depression Era, Pulitzer Winners Type/Source: Library Why I read this now: I was trying to find something for this WiaN category – come to end up reading 3 books to satisfy. #whatever #shrug
MOTIVATION for READING: I saw this on my tbr and it fit the category and the library had a copy – possibly a first edition copy? (I was having a hard time finding a copy of One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes which IS in my cc50. This just happens to be a classic; NOT on my cc50…)
Page 144: “When everything was finally dead, I thought that relief from hope would come, but hope’s an obsession that never dies.”
WHAT’s it ABOUT: A family trying to eke a living out of the ground in the midst of the depression. Older sister is a fish out of water, the youngest sister and mother are inspirations, Dad is wearily lost and angry about it all and our narrator just aches with feelings and thoughts that only confound.
What gr says: “Brilliant, evocative, poetic, savage, this Pulitzer Prize-winning first novel (1934) written when Josephine Winslow Johnson was only 24, depicts a white, middle-class urban family that is turned into dirt-poor farmers by the Depression and the great drought of the thirties. The novel moves through a single year and, at the same time, a decade of years, from the spring arrival of the family at their mortgaged farm to the winter 10 years later, when the ravages of drought, fire, and personal anguish have led to the deaths of two of the five. Like Ethan Frome, the relatively brief, intense story evokes the torment possible among people isolated and driven by strong feelings of love and hate that, unexpressed, lead inevitably to doom. Reviewers in the thirties praised the novel, calling its prose “profoundly moving music,” expressing incredulity “that this mature style and this mature point of view are those of a young women in her twenties,” comparing the book to “the luminous work of Willa Cather,” and, with prescience, suggesting that it “has that rare quality of timelessness which is the mark of first-rate fiction.””
THOUGHTS: I would NEVER have compared this to Ethan Frome, but yea. I guess I could go there. (I shudder.)
Such pain. Such loss. I worry about our world now and how much we use and discard, in our disposable society. If I had to live simply and off the land, giving every extra penny to my mortgage, thinking of it as a terrifying weight that could drag me to my death with any next scratch of a pen; … Anyway, it is a sobering look at how people managed, or didn’t, in that awful time.
The descriptions of nature offer some glimmer of love and sunshine. But even the sun gets cursed in this one.
Brilliant, evocative, poetic, savage.
Four slices of pie.
Page 28: “He cut us big slices, firm and wedge-shaped like the tall pieces of a pie, and a bigger one for mother, and then we thought it was time for the presents to be given.”
Page 115: “He did it because he liked pies, he said, and was fearful that M would fall asleep and put away God knows what in the jars.”