Caldwell, (Janet Miriam) Taylor (Holland)
(Janet Miriam) Taylor (Holland) Caldwell 1900–
(Also wrote under pseudonyms of Max Reiner and Marcus Holland) English-born American novelist.
Since the publication of her first novel, Dynasty of Death, in 1938, Caldwell has written over thirty internationally best-selling romance novels. Many of her works are long, multigenerational sagas featuring immigrant protagonists who struggle for wealth and power. Caldwell has also written religious fiction, notably Dear and Glorious Physician (1959) and I, Judas (1977). These novels received favorable reviews for their attempt to demystify Saint Luke and Judas Iscariot. Testimony of Two Men (1968) and Captains and the Kings (1972) were serialized for television.
Critics generally agree that Caldwell's greatest strength as a novelist lies in her narrative ability. Her novels exhibit extensive historical research, thus providing a realistic sense of place. It is conceded, however, that much of her writing is formulaic, with stock characters and contrived plots. In addition, critics fault her didactic tendency. Still, Caldwell provides a "good read" and her enduring popularity ensures her a dominant place in the romance genre.
(See also CLC, Vol. 2; Contemporary Authors, Vol. 5-8, rev. ed.; and Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 5.)
The armaments industry is a subject which fiction does well to take up; and Mrs. Caldwell's attack [in Dynasty of Death] is handled with the patience and skill of a prosecuting attorney. In order to establish her case she builds up a careful background, introducing a number of facts and side-issues which a defense attorney would probably characterize—and an impartial judge perhaps disallow—as irrelevant, incompetent, and all the rest of it. But when the whole picture is complete, you have to admit that she has been handling with considerable ability several interacting and at times rather refractory themes….
One's chief criticism of this novel is that it pays the industry a compliment which, though backhanded and unconscious, is none the less a compliment. The author assumes that the industry requires, as its representative, something rather terrific in the way of a man. In all the pages, and they are 797, in which she deals with Ernest Barbour, she never quite reduces him to human stature. Ernest is a devil, the personification of a great industrial evil; and when a devil goes about the devil's work, something is missing. What we miss in this instance is the ultimate historical irony: on the one hand, the traffic in murder; on the other, a trafficker who is just as muddled and petty and able to compound with his conscience as the rest of us. Only a genius could in a novel of this sort create or maintain such an ironical...
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Halford E. Luccock
[In Dynasty of Death the] author avoids one ready pitfall of the long family-history novel, that of sacrificing everything to breadth and length. There is a stretch of a hundred years and a cast of actors running into many score. Yet there is intensity of interest, full detail and characterization at each period.
The most noticeable weakness of the novel is that the villains are too darkly and consistently villainous and the good people too obviously equipped with a halo. This is seen in the sharp black-and-white woodcut contrast between Ernest Barbour, the Napoleon of the firm, and his brother Martin, a sort of Pennsylvania St. Francis of Assisi. Ernest is a terribly integrated person—completely integrated about the dollar. He is relentless, cruel, endowed with satanic skill and all the other gifts and graces necessary to make a well rounded devil. His brother Martin gives his life in the effort to relieve the terrible slavery into which Ernest has plunged his workers. This gives an unreal effect, for real life is far more complex and perplexing. The typical munitions king or industrial grand duke is likely to be not an inhuman monster, but rather a person deserving of the classic tribute to a pirate, "as mild-mannered a man as ever scuttled a ship."
This is a novel of sustained interest, done with care and skill, notable for its picture of the unfolding industrial life of America, particularly of the steel...
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["The Eagles Gather"] continues the saga of the Bouchard family, the great armaments clan whose fortunes were first set forth in "Dynasty of Death." The Bouchards are ruthless, self-willed men, and their women are pawns of their overweening lust for power. One recalls how, in the earlier novel, the Bouchards together with the Barbours founded a small powder and arms factory in Pennsylvania in the middle of the last century. One recalls how they gradually outstripped and exterminated their competitors, how they created a gigantic munitions monopoly with interests extending into affiliated industries, and how these merchants of death learned to manipulate public opinion and to provoke wars when business was dull….
Tradition is a powerful motor force in human behavior. When we first met the Bouchards they seemed shocking and unreal. It was difficult to accustom oneself to the irresponsible violence and unmotivated hatreds with which "Dynasty of Death" was peppered. But now violence and treachery have come to have the force of tradition in the Bouchard family, and one accepts their monstrous behavior with more credence. By that measure "The Eagles Gather" … emerges as a much stronger book than its predecessor. We might also add that its narrative has much more unity, and its drama is much more concentrated. "Dynasty of Death" spread out from 1837 to 1910, and its texture, for all its 400,000 words, seemed a little thin. The new novel...
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Taylor Caldwell's "Dynasty of Death" succeeded in making munitions manufacturers seem considerably more dramatic than they probably are in actuality. "The Eagles Gather," a sequel, is more of the same, only not as good. For one thing, perhaps Taylor Caldwell can keep her Bouchards clear and separate, but there are just too many of them for this simple mind. After a while you lose count, and after you lose count you lose interest. As a matter of fact, I think I lost interest before I lost count, because the characterization in "The Eagles Gather" is so definitely melodramatic that it makes the whole long, crowded, and painstaking narrative a bit unconvincing. Also, while I'm perfectly willing to credit anything evil I read about munitions people, I cannot believe that they alone manipulate history, start and stop wars, plan in advance what we shall think, etc. They're powerful, no doubt, but they're not gods. The view of current history on which "The Eagles Gather" is based seems to me rather too simplified.
Those who like complicated family chronicles with a raft of sinister villains will, I think, take to Taylor Caldwell's latest installment of Bouchards. My own feeling is that her message could have been projected in half the length and with half the characters. The book would have been about twice as effective, too. (pp. 52-3)
Clifton Fadiman, "Three Novels" (copyright © 1940 by The New...
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Richard A. Cordell
["Dynasty of Death" and its recently-published sequel, "The Eagles Gather,"] have the same theine—the titanic struggle between ruthlessness, greed, opportunism, selfishness, and dishonesty on the one side (the munitions barons blandly lump together all such practices as "realism"), and altruism, justice, love, and self-sacrifice on the other side. The victor in this internecine war is not announced, for the war is still raging—perhaps more fiercely today than ever before.
"The Eagles Gather" is a depressing, almost terrifying book. It hurls formidable charges against the powers of evil that shape our personal and national destinies, and although the book is fiction, its insinuations and implications are disturbing and sometimes alarming….
Under the impact of these allegations we find difficulty in responding always to the deep human demands of the story, but human interest is here. For these men of greed, these "realists," do not hesitate to sacrifice friends, brothers, children, and parents in their ruthless battle for power. The various narratives of the novel deal with death-struggles between Machiavellism and human decency. Although the author is not an absolute cynic, she is no facile optimist, and to resolve these conflicts she does not conjure up the comfortable old saw that right makes might.
One fault of the novel, less annoying than in "Dynasty of Death," is the confusing legion of...
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Taylor Caldwell's "The Earth Is the Lord's" … reminds one less of a novel than it does of a particularly grandiloquent opera. All the characters talk in a kind of recitative, the psychology is always grand to the point of inflation, and all the action seems to be accompanied by full orchestra, with percussion instruments dominating. The net effect, too, is operatic, for you feel that while all this blood and thunder verges on the silly, it never really is silly but, on the contrary, is perversely, if only momentarily, fascinating.
Those who remember Taylor Caldwell's munitions melodramas, "Dynasty of Death" and "The Eagles Gather"—her taste in titles runs to the garish—will recall her penchant for the colossally evil, for the tyrannosaurs of the human species. In Temujin she has an unbeatable subject, for this Mongol barbarian, born with a clot of dried blood in his tiny hand, was a perfect beyond-good-and-evil type—in other and less romantic words, a conscienceless killer whose extraordinary abilities enabled him to commit his murders wholesale. Such types bob up every few centuries, and it is damning evidence of human stupidity that we do not recognize them until it is too late.
Taylor Caldwell's story carries Temujin to only one of the summits of his career. When her book ends, he is ready to begin his conquest of southern and central China but has not yet done so. Her main interest lies in...
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Louise Maunsell Field
For the background of her new novel, "The Strong City," Taylor Caldwell has chosen the town of "Nazareth," Pa., and the steel industry as it was during the latter years of the past century. That was the time when men worked twelve hours a day six days a week, when unions were struggling for existence and many employers regarded the "Knights of Labor" with considerable disfavor and even more suspicion. Immigrants were then swarming into the United States, and it is from among these immigrants and their immediate descendants that the author has chosen most of her characters. First in importance is Franz Stoessel, a foreman in the Schmidt Mills when the novel begins….
The first part of the book is by all odds the most interesting. The account of the great steel mills and of the men who worked there, men from all countries with "sullen and desperate faces," whom Franz drove mercilessly, hating them "with a purity of hatred undisturbed by considerations of family or fear of hunger," has real vitality. This first part is largely dominated by the young Englishman, Tom Harrow, who was "ignorant and clever, philosophical and vulgar," trying to organize a union, "boiling with an infuriated sense of outrage and injustice" done, not to him, but to all his fellow-workers, something Franz was utterly unable to understand. Tom's speech to the workers at the labor meeting, Jan's denunciation of Franz at Tom's funeral are the most dramatic moments in...
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While "The Arm and the Darkness" by Taylor Caldwell is primarily a long narrative of the physical and spiritual struggles of a young nobleman during the conflicts between the Catholic reaction and the Huguenots in France in the time of Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu, it is also an adumbration of the emergence of the Common Man into history and his opening battles for liberty, enlightenment and justice. The real villain of this novel is the corrupt hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church and the real hero is that urge toward liberation that expressed itself in the Huguenot movement. Of course, the line between good and evil is not drawn quite so definitely as that, for Miss Caldwell makes it plain that there were good Catholics and corrupt Huguenots; but, all the same, the protagonists are reaction and progress and their other names were Rome and Luther. To express all this Miss Caldwell has created Arsène de Richepane, at first a devil-may-care young swashbuckler and then a brooding and disillusioned man. (p. 6)
She has employed every ingredient that Alexander Dumas père ever used but with a difference. Here are the clash of swords, racing horses on night roads, hunted men pursued through dark alleys, conspirators in closed cabinets, rendezvous and passionate meetings, burning chateaux, enraged mobs, battle and siege, haughty noblemen and jackal sycophants, terrifying priests and gentle old abbés, duels, revenge and love...
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The Times Literary Supplement
Miss Taylor Caldwell casts her net wide in search of themes and periods for the sort of elaborate fiction she favours…. Nobody need or should despise the amount of work which has gone into the quarter of a million words or so of ["The Arm and the Darkness"]. Regretfully, however, one cannot but wish it had a little more life, a little real substance or individuality. Here, it must be confessed, is rather too much of the stale perfume of historical romance, too much of the faded tinsel, altogether too much of the conventional rhetoric…. Miss Caldwell, though extreme facility has always been her failing, has written better books than this….
The tale, and with it the personality of Richelieu, is much overwritten. Miss Caldwell presents a line of seventeenth-century Protestant criticism that in point of fact is very much out of its time, and she does not hesitate to round off a generally improbable fiction with a similarly post-dated greeting to the American future.
A review of "The Arm and the Darkness," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1943; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 2179, November 6, 1943, p. 533.
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[In] "The Wide House" Miss Caldwell has begun to question her formula. She has discovered that "a man might find some kindliness ∗ ∗ ∗ in men who were avowedly rascals ∗ ∗ ∗ and find nothing but mercilessness ∗ ∗ ∗ in those who had the approval of God." But though she has given the matter some thought, her old habits persist.
When the curtain rises on the buzzing young town of Grandeville, N.Y., in the Eighteen Fifties, we meet in Stuart Coleman the robust, full-blooded hero of costume drama. A rebellious Irishman with a weakness for women, he deviates from type in his passionate love for a house. Though only a small shopkeeper, he has built himself a great white castle that stands in marked contrast to the ugly dark buildings around him. For a reason which we learn much later, "he would fight to death for it ∗ ∗ ∗. In an odd way it had so completed him that he felt no need for any woman to share it with him." But when his rich, widowed cousin, the cruel and ugly Janie Cauder, arrives with her four children, Stuart wastes no time in making her his mistress and in gaining control of her wealth to marry the daughter of his worst enemy.
But if you think you know Stuart by now, you underrate Miss Caldwell. You haven't yet watched him grow misty-eyed over Janie's pathetic, maltreated children; you haven't heard him plan with his wise old friend, Sam, to establish a refuge on River Island for the...
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Richard A. Cordell
Taylor Caldwell's long, turbulent narratives—one appears every year with the regularity of the almanac or year-book—are very much alike. From "Dynasty of Death" (1938) down to [her new novel "This Side of Innocence"] the ingredients vary only slightly; a family or two of wealth and power, most of their members despising one another and engaging in callous and unscrupulous business enterprise; intra-family love duels; intimate details of high finance and industrial backgrounds; meticulous attention to Godey's Lady's Book and other sources of information for details of costumes and interior decoration in the Gilded Age. The prolific Buffalo novelist puzzles the discriminating reader of fiction: the books are too long and cry out for the blue pencil, particularly the obvious comments on situations that speak for themselves; the dialogue is often stilted and prolix, but perhaps no more unrealistic than Hemingway's, which is stilted and too bare; and in spite of outbursts of melodrama and frequent nebulous characterization, she nearly always avoids sentimentality and downright banality. These energetic, surging stories proceed with a poise and stateliness which, many believe, the author could elevate into a sort of grandeur if she cared to do so. The novels sometimes have a power and magnitude out of all proportion to their content….
Faithful readers of Taylor Caldwell—and they are legion—will be grateful that [in "This...
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Will "There Was a Time" cause a rift between Taylor Caldwell and her everloving public? Will that public … mind that she has slapped their wrists in this semi-autobiographical novel about a young writer who forsakes thunderous chronicles of villainous financiers to write from his heart? The answer to these questions must be a resounding no….
Miss Caldwell's desertion of the titans who stomp through her previous output has in no wise affected her approach or her prose—which still throbs with passion, sags with adjectives and overflows into royal-purple rapture. As of old, her characters, wading ankle-deep in malevolence, are locked in unequal contest with compound, overpowering emotions. To be sure, sex has taken a holiday here: her Frank Clair, although shamefully cavalier with his muse, is faithful in his fashion to the girl who took his beauty-starved heart when he was a lad. But anyone who thinks that the literary life is without melodrama need only be referred to the scene in which Frank's stifled human compassion breathes again at the sight of a prostitute nursing her fatherless babe….
[The] book really began for this reader when Frank is finally established at his typewriter—battling nausea to produce the bon-bon romances editors wanted at the height of the depression, and working exultantly at his first real novel on the side. These passages are rich with scorn. Miss Caldwell divides her...
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Taylor Caldwell realizes full well the limitations and stupidities of her Melissa [the heroine of Caldwell's "Melissa"], daughter of a philosophic writer who has deliberately made a mess of her out of his villainous desire to dominate her and make her subject to his psychologically poisonous whims. But the author never intended that we should become painfully bored and irritated with the beautiful creature; and that miscarriage of Taylor Caldwell's purpose must be attributed to the apparent hurry, the lack of careful organization, the adjectival and prolifically adverbial style in which the novel is written. The author of "Dynasty of Death" and other best sellers seems to be writing too fast and too much. Even those who have regarded her strong, often lusty stories as good examples of intelligent, popular drama will be disturbed at her present work.
This novel of a passionately idealistic and fanatically narrow-minded girl who is married to an urbane, broad-minded publisher in the post-Civil-War period, is written in Taylor Caldwell's deepest purple. On almost any page the heroine palpitates, shivers, trembles, chokes, aches, weeps, denunciates, lies rigid and cold in her hard bed, clenches every muscle, wrings her handkerchief, has to clutch at furniture to keep from falling in a faint, feels her breast rising and falling with anguish and outrage, her body shaking with denial and horror and with fear.
Heroines of the...
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What will America be like in 1970? Miss Caldwell's [apocalyptic "The Devil's Advocate"] makes Spengler seem cheerful by comparison. In this novel of fierce prophecy she sees a Communist conspiracy in control in Washington. The courts and the Constitution have been outlawed; family life is directed by the Government; the fifth world war is about to erupt (this one against South America, the rest of the world being subject and in ruins). Tipping her political hand, she offers as her trump of horrors the fact that the Republican party has been banned as of 1958….
[The story] that follows is full of nightmare complexities and melodramatic suspense. Unfortunately, it is also full of repetitions, distortions, contradictions, and downright offenses to common sense. For example, we are told that in the monstrous third and fourth world wars only the United States used atomic weapons—and was itself untouched by a single bomb.
Worse still, however, is the author's hysterical antipathy for the New Deal. Instead of the great depression, we are offered America of 1932 as a country that lived by a code of honor, freedom, individualism, dignity, and self-responsibility. Then "the misguided people elected a man to the Presidency whose twisted mind stands out against the black background of history like a conflagration." Arguments can assuredly be mounted against Welfareism, and Miss Caldwell's legerdemain as queen of the lending...
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Up to now Miss Caldwell has been in the habit of simplifying the past, of building her plot and bullying her characters around one idea…. In The Devil's Advocate she presents a simplification of recent past and proximate future both. Her scene is the slave America of the 1970's, the seeds of whose destruction were sown in the 1930's.
America's downward slide into a Communist state "had begun with a loathsome use of the word 'security.' And in the name of that fantasy, that dream-filled myth, American pride, responsibility, grandeur and strength, had been systematically murdered."… Thus by 1970 the Republic had become "The Democracy," and the President was the captive of The Military and The Farmers, and the people were everywhere in chains.
Miss Caldwell's own fantasy concerns a "Minute Man" named Durant, a Catholic (who goes to confession before a dangerous "subversive" mission which requires much butchery on his part), who takes the name of Major Curtiss to be gauleiter of the Philadelphia area. Ostensibly a loyal servant of "The Democracy," Durant-Curtiss has the secret mission of goading the people to rebellion by his outrageous cruelty. The cops and robbers stuff Miss Caldwell handles with exemplary skill, but the rest is unfunny, and quite dangerous, nonsense. (pp. 313-14)
Riley Hughes, in his review of "The Devil's Advocate," in Catholic World...
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If critics took the author of "Never Victorious, Never Defeated" as seriously as she takes herself, articles would have long since appeared on "The World of Taylor Caldwell." Fourteen of the sixteen novels she has published in less than two decades portray important aspects of American life in the period from the middle of the nineteenth century to the present time, most of them concerned with families of great wealth and power. Three of the novels, beginning with "Dynasty of Death," have to do with the Barbour-Bouchard family and the manufacture of munitions. In other novels she has done steel, textiles and lumber, and now she has turned to railroading….
If someone were to repeat to Miss Caldwell Scott Fitzgerald's famous statement that the very rich are different from the rest of us, she would doubtless reply, "Yes, they are more interesting." And there are millions of readers who obviously agree with her. What she thinks about the wealthy is not easy to say, for her opinions, never perfectly clear, have shifted more than once since she began writing. But she has always been fascinated by the way they get their money and the way they spend it. There are more of the very rich in her novels than in Fitzgerald's or Dreiser's or Dos Passos' or even Upton Sinclair's.
Of the four authors mentioned, Upton Sinclair is the one with whom Miss Caldwell has most in common. Both are belated Victorians, addicted to a full...
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[Taylor Caldwell] has pursued through sixteen novels almost every aspect of the rise of those multi-millionaire families in the United States Theodore Roosevelt called malefactors of great wealth. The fact that her great-uncle once owned all of the railroads in Scotland and that her grandmother was half Irish has had a great deal to do with the subject of her newest book, "Never Victorious, Never Defeated." This long and absorbing novel is by no means a pursuit of a wornout vein; the author has discovered a new gold mine in the intramural conflicts of four generations of a prolific family of Pennsylvania railroad builders fighting to extend their lines north and west. It is a complex story involving more than twenty principal characters, as well as striking theories on immigration, labor unions, socialism, and war….
In the background of this tumultuous railroad novel there is the history of eighty years of conflict, change, and war through which the author's beliefs constantly come to the surface. "All men are instinctively tyrannous and dangerous," she writes. "The impoverishment of men and the earth in the act of preparing for war will lead to the slow erosion of our liberties…. Idealists have a secret contempt for the self-made men while they prate of the majesty of labor and the nobility of toil…. Who ever trusted another man?"
For 550 pages Taylor Caldwell succeeds in the astonishing feat of maintaining the...
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It is impossible to read anything of Taylor Caldwell's without being reminded of the old gag, "He don't sing good, but he sings loud." Miss Caldwell doesn't write well, to be sure—but her books are infused with a sort of wild, anything-goes vitality which can hardly be ascribed to Henry James. Not that "The Sound of Thunder" is a good book. It isn't. But Miss Caldwell has managed to stay sufficiently within the bounds of educated standards to make the reader feel rewarded for panting after her as she free-wheels through this long, complicated chronicle.
The central character is Edward Enger, a hard worker who was sent to help in his father's delicatessen at 14 so that his three brothers and one sister—the geniuses—could become, respectively, a pianist, a painter, a writer and a theatrical producer. That, at least, was his mother's idea, but it didn't quite work out. Eddie, we discover, is something of a genius himself. He works day and night, makes a fabulous amount of money and asks nothing of his family except that they turn out to be geniuses, as advertised.
Inevitably, they aren't geniuses at all. (pp. 48-9)
One of the chief assets of the book is Miss Caldwell's account of Eddie's career in the delicatessen business and her ability to make it fascinating. It is easy to believe that her documentation here is accurate. When she gets into the field of world politics, she is somewhat less than...
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Virginia Kirkus' Service
In choosing to put emphasis on the early life of Luke the physician, Taylor Caldwell has presented [in Dear and Glorious Physician] quite a different picture from that Frank Slaughter has given in The Road to Bithynia…. It is—she tells her readers—a subject on which she has worked most of her life. The result shows an immense amount of research, a dedication to her subject. Luke emerges as a whole man—and most readers will find the biographical aspects of her story—up to the time when she gears it into the Gospel record—far more moving and convincing than the final chapters, when Luke approaches what has been, at times unwittingly, his life goal, an identification with the "unknown god" of his youth. It makes an extraordinarily authentic picture of the Greek and Roman world, with the scene shifting from Alexandria to Rome to other parts of the Roman Empire; peopled by individuals who made up that world, in their relation to each other, the conquerors and the conquered, the victims and the slaves, the masters, the rulers…. It is a wonderful story, drawn from many sources, most of them apocryphal, and it builds up to the crucifixion—at second hand—the coming to the land of Israel—the weaving into his Gospel the story told by many, and finally the culmination in the meeting with Mary.
A review of "Dear and Glorious Physician," in Virginia Kirkus' Service, Vol. XXVII, No. 1,...
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St. Luke, author of the third Gospel and of the Acts, was with St. Paul in Rome and is referred to by him as "the beloved physician." According to tradition he was a gentile Greek. The shadowy figure evoked by these few phrases bursts forth technicolored and Toddeoscale in Taylor Caldwell's ["Dear and Glorious Physician"]….
Aside from any religious conviction, the scholar will deplore the book's heavy-handed reproduction of the period, while any lover of English will cringe at its lush overwriting. The depiction of Luke, Mary and Jesus as Nordic blondes has all the dignity and restraint of a theater poster. No doubt "Dear and Glorious Physician" will be a best-seller and will be bought by Hollywood for an "epic" production at an epic price.
Caroline Tunstall, "Taylor Caldwell's St. Luke," in New York Herald Tribune Book Review (© I.H.T. Corporation; reprinted by permission), March 15, 1959, p. 14.
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Spacious, alive with the bustle of ancient times and places, and illumined by flashes of genuine lyrical intensity, "Dear and Glorious Physician" is the product of an obsession that has challenged Miss Caldwell's talents for more than forty years….
Armed both with insight and erudition, she movingly reconstructs St. Luke's search for God, universalizing his anguish for troubled men everywhere. With her we live his childhood, meet his family and friends, participate in his extraordinary education, admire his Apollonian beauty and his athletic prowess. We discover the amazing world of ancient medicine; we see him suffer evil and loss, and then, in torments of rage and pity, arrive at an affirmation of faith. In Miss Caldwell's resurrective prose St. Luke lives in his journeys both inward and outward; he lives as physician, son, wanderer, lover—and as a maker of miracles, all of them palpitatingly described. Finally, and this is the author's ultimate purpose, he lives as a tower of spiritual strength.
Miss Caldwell's novel hums with the activities of the older world…. The one serious complaint that many readers are likely to make is that the author's political observations are too strident, too frequent and too loaded with contemporary implications. But none can deny that she has written with unusual passion and success.
Charles Lee, "Inspired Apostle," in The New York...
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On page 572 (the final page) [of Dear and Glorious Physician] Miss Caldwell adds this sentence (in parentheses) after her own final sentence of the novel: "Continued in the Holy Bible, Gospel of St. Luke, and Acts I and II." There is something awesome in assurance like that, something that defies comment. Lucanus (St. Luke) is a very pedestrian fellow who finally comes to some faint understanding of God.
Lucanus strikes this reader, at least, as a rather dimwitted figure, unable to account for his miraculous powers of healing and, even in his attraction to the new religion, a man who acts remarkedly like a twentieth-century agnostic. If Christianity is Pickwickian and shadowy in Dear and Glorious Physician, the decadent, pagan Roman world is not. What with licentiousness and "the disturbing mysticism of the Jews," poor Lucanus has, over these interminable pages, an unhappy career of it. As for his career as evangelist, Miss Caldwell, voluble on all else, remains staunchly mum.
Riley Hughes, in his review of "Dear and Glorious Physician," in Catholic World (copyright 1959 by The Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle in the State of New York; used by permission), Vol. 189, No. 1133, August, 1959, p. 402.
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Taylor Caldwell is an angry woman. She tells us so in a candid foreword to her curious new novel ["The Listener"]. Man does not need a new religion, she says. He does not require better bombs and missiles. He does not have to travel to the moon. What he really needs is someone to listen to his hurts and bewilderments. Of course, that Someone is the not very mysterious "Listener" of her book.
The role of "The Listener" is dramatized in fifteen chapters that successively feature troubled "Souls," each numbered and tagged, as, for example, Soul One, The Confessed; Soul Two, the Underprivileged; Soul Three, The Despised and Rejected. A troubled Soul repairs to a two-room marble sanctuary that is open to the public. Once there, the Soul begins to talk. In every instance, the supplicants receive unspoken guidance or undergo sudden conversions that produce admirably ethical solutions to their problems.
The fact that no one is ever interrupted in his soliloquy suggests that few actually make use of the sanctuary—though it is conveniently located in the heart of a big city. It is also, even more conveniently, located in the heart of the individual Soul. Since Souls are always made better for the expedience of the sanctuary, Miss Caldwell has a right to be angry. It is a righteous anger that has been shared down the centuries.
Using her fifteen chapters as a platform and her wide assortment of Souls as...
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The Listener is not exactly a novel; it is rather a series of related episodes or tales held together by a slender string of place. The protagonists of these episodes come to a sanctuary built through the aid of a bequest left by the lawyer John Godfrey. Some are scoffing and defiant; others are hurt and humble; all are seeking peace. Some push the button which opens the curtains to reveal "The Man Who Listens" patiently. Others tell their story without caring to learn the identity of the man. Gradually, as one episode succeeds another, it is implied from the guarded language used that (in some way not made clear) "The Man Who Listens" is Christ.
Religious novels such as this one have their greatest appeal for those who share the subordinate ideas and who relish the style of the author. For example, the client called "The Pharisee," we are told, "hated the inelegant, the openly enjoyed." (p. 197)
Some readers may have difficulty in seeing all this as a serious indictment. But even Alexander Damon, an esthete and an alcoholic, is humbled by his experience in the late John Godfrey's sanctuary. His parting remark is "The ancient Greeks poured out wine in a libation to God. Would you mind very much if I poured out my whiskey in a libation?"
The slick ease with which Miss Caldwell cures alcoholism, ends racial tensions and irons out life's chief problems is sufficient explanation of the low...
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When love comes to Caroline Ames Sheldon in Taylor Caldwell's "A Prologue to Love" …, it is page 553, and there are only sixty pages or so to tidy things up: change a few bequests, do a little benevolent blackmailing, engage a brain surgeon, and otherwise try to alter the course of a lifetime of bitchery.
Bitchery comes naturally to the wretched billionairess, since the father Miss Caldwell has devised for her is a marvelous nineteenth-century monster of a dad who has everything but fangs. Shut up in a rotting old country house for most of her childhood, schooled in niggardliness by her miserly parent, Caroline comes to womanly estate so terrified of poverty that she is incapable of conducting human relationships. In this block-buster of misery that blasts lives from the Franco-Prussian War to World War I, there are human relationships aplenty, most of them stemming from the fact that shifty old John fathered dual dynasties—one with his wife and another with his mistress, Cynthia, who happened to be the wife's twin sister. What a mess!…
A dependable performer, Miss Caldwell delivers what her readers have come to expect of her: a no-nonsense view of character, a convincing belief in moral absolutes, and a relish for detail that would have been appreciated by Hieronymus Bosch. If cavilers find "A Prologue to Love" a bit lacking in credibility—well, you can't have everything.
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Annette T. Rottenberg
The natural perversity of students can sometimes be turned to good account, as when a student asks (apropos of a discussion about reading habits), "But isn't it necessary to read bad books in order to recognize good ones?" and the teacher replies, "Yes, it is." The attempt to implement this proposition can be unexpectedly rewarding.
My own experience grew out of a class in American Literature since the Civil War, which had just concluded a study of The American and "The Art of Fiction." There would surely be few better opportunities for applying the criteria of the master craftsman to a work which takes itself seriously but must renounce any claim to artistic importance.
The "bad" book had to meet several not very stringent requirements; it had to belong to the realistic tradition in order to afford closer comparison with the novels read during the course; it had to be widely read or at least the product of an author who is widely read; it had to be full enough to contain most of the elements worth discussing, but not too long; and it had to violate, but perhaps not too openly, most of the rules laid down by James and others. Finding such a book is, fortunately for our purposes, very easy. Half an hour spent at the racks of a paperback collection yielded two prizes: The Final Hour and Your Sins and Mine, both by Taylor Caldwell. A hundred other novels might have done as well. For several reasons,...
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Edith Farr Ridington
[A Pillar of Iron] is a long and pretentious novel about Cicero which I found extremely annoying both because of its many inaccuracies (I made note as I read of some forty questionable statements) and because it builds up a picture of Cicero that seemed to me to be very far removed from the Cicero most classicists know. For a novelist to deliberately alter historical fact for artistic purposes, and to tell the reader that he is doing so, as Thornton Wilder did in his Ides of March, is one thing. But to set oneself up as a model of research and scholarship, as Miss Caldwell does in her Foreword, and then to present a Roman like Cicero as longing for the coming of the Jewish Messiah, and having visions of a nuclear holocaust, is quite another. The book has some interesting scenes; its picture of Julius Caesar is rather lively; and the early part is better than the later; but it drags interminably, and misses completely the real flavor of Cicero.
Edith Farr Ridington, in her review of "A Pillar of Iron," in The Classical World, Vol. 59, No. 3, November, 1965, p. 75.
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William B. Hill
[A Pillar of Iron is an] astonishingly powerful novel based on the life of Cicero. Miss Caldwell obviously admires the great orator, practically making him a pre-Christian Christian; she glosses over his faults, extols his virtues. Had she shortened some of the scenes and in general been less wordy, she might have had room for a more comprehensive treatment of Cicero's entire life. But even so, she has made his stirring times real.
William B. Hill, in his review of "A Pillar of Iron," in America (reprinted with permission of America Press, Inc.; © 1965; all rights reserved), Vol. 113, No. 22, November 27, 1965, p. 688.
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["Dialogues with the Devil"] is an exercise in moral indignation without the mechanics of fiction that customarily camouflage Miss Caldwell's opinions. Thus, in an exchange of letters between Beelzebub and the Archangel Michael, we are made directly aware of a catalogue of modern scourges beloved of the devil: egalitarianism, water pollution, Freud, masculine women, insubordinate children, climate control and deodorants for men. (Miss Caldwell doesn't say how the letters are delivered, but I suspect that Lucifer has a hell of a lot to do with the U.S. Post Office.)…
The author is certainly on the side of the angels—but she is guilty of a couple of misdemeanors not mentioned by the devil, namely, Prolixity and Sententiousness. Her celestial visions, ornamented with "alabaster bowls of fruit" and "limbs like carved white stone" evoke Maxfield Parrish and worse. A proper novel is a far more effective vehicle for ideas than a mere jeremiad, however deeply felt.
Anthony Boucher, in his review of "Dialogues with the Devil," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1967 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), June 11, 1967, p. 43.
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The Times Literary Supplement
A conversation with the Devil presents a fairly obvious literary temptation, especially perhaps to a Christian, but to anyone who plans to discuss the painful evil of the modern world, its false values or its misdirected aims, C. S. Lewis comes immediately to mind. He knew that the Devil himself would be difficult to catch, so very cleverly he avoided the problem by composing a series of letters from one of Hell's staff to a junior Tempter on his first assignment in the world…. [In Dialogues with the Devil] Miss Caldwell attempts something much more exacting, for she presents Lucifer himself, and, as though that were not problem enough, puts him into correspondence with the Archangel Michael. She is an experienced novelist, but it must be said that the two contestants use [styles that are] disconcertingly alike. Possibly it is because both are angels even though one of them is "fallen", but by the close of the book the heavy style has begun to pall. One misses the verve, and the wit, of Lewis.
But the real fault of the book is that it lacks bite, roaming too widely over unknown planets. Lucifer would have done better, and set Gabriel a tougher problem, had he been allowed to stick to Miss Caldwell's home ground. He might have preened himself on the success with which he had made a bogy of communism and with it had engulfed a great nation in a prolonged and dreadful war. He might have had much more to say about the skill with...
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No question, [Taylor Caldwell] … can tell an engrossing story. She proves it once again in ["Captains and the Kings," a] gigantic novel about the Armagh family, closest, perhaps, in structure to her first big success, "Dynasty of Death." As an Irish immigrant, Joseph Armagh arrives via steerage in the 1850s. Upon the death of both his parents, Joseph, at 13, is left with a baby sister and small brother, whom he leaves with nuns near Pittsburgh. He sets out to support them and to survive. He becomes tough, ruthless and proud, and eventually makes an immense fortune that gives him a part in international currency manipulation, in politics, and the waging of wars. Joseph marries, lovelessly, has children and ambitions for them, grooming one son for the presidency…. Through all this saga one cannot help but find some parallels with the Kennedy saga, set back to the period 1850–1915. Portraits of some characters, rather bitterly slanted, are certainly more than coincidental. Underlying the magnetic plot is the author's deeply felt view of the world's manipulation by international moneymen, the conspiracy of a few to wield power over the many, economically, politically, militarily. It is not a point of view that will please some liberals among us.
A review of "Captains and the Kings," in Publishers Weekly (reprinted from the February 14, 1972 issue of Publishers Weekly, published by R. R. Bowker...
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Until about three quarters of the way through [Captains and the Kings] I more or less knew what I should be writing about. Now I am not so sure. It seemed to be one of those capacious dramatic tales of the American dollar dream in the tradition of The Magnificent Ambersons, The Great Gatsby or Citizen Kane. 'Joseph Francis Xavier Armagh was thirteen years old when he first saw America through the dirty porthole on the steerage deck of The Irish Queen. It was the early 1850's and he was a penniless immigrant, an orphan cast on a hostile shore to make a home for himself and his younger brother and infant sister.' And he does, although the brother turns out to be a homosexual concert tenor and the sister a nun. Joseph's childhood humiliation makes him bitter and his bitterness makes him cruelly determined. His mania to reach the top devours him and all who cross his path, excepting his mistress. With his ruthless disregard for other people which is always necessary in accumulating great wealth, he does grow vastly rich, from oil and newspapers, gunrunning and brothels, and he grows very brutal in his use of that frightening political power which will obviously accompany it. Private riches on this lurid scale can and must buy everything which is of this every-day world, including Washington. This is the ultimate trophy Armagh covets for his son. The Presidency of a country which once spat upon him…. The story is rich in...
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Big, wordy, sprawling, ["Captains and the Kings"] is probably a thesis novel; there is some loose association with the Kennedy family, though in this instance all of the tragedy is the result of a curse imposed by a ruthlessly destroyed statesman and the time ranges from around 1860 to the second decade of this century; but the theme of an Irish immigrant, raised up to wealth by his own driving passion and bent on making his son President, is finally made secondary to the theme of an international cabal that controls the press and statesmen throughout the world, plans wars, determines international destinies. No one coming new to the book but familiar with the author will be surprised to find that the beginning of all tyranny is the income tax. It is hard to believe that anybody could take seriously the conferences of this cabal; this aspect of the work, some looseness of construction and carelessness about details—Taylor Caldwell never seems aware that the Molly Maguires were associated with anthracite coal—are harmful but many readers have worked their way through this much too long book, and doubtless many others will do so….
A review of "Captains and the Kings," in Best Sellers (copyright 1973, by the University of Scranton), Vol. 33, No. 11, September 1, 1973, p. 259.
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Return with Taylor Caldwell to ancient Greece [in "Glory and the Lightning"], where characters in desperation are wont to cry: "Wine, in the name of the gods." At an Athenian dinner party, you can hear the architect Phidias say: "Ah, yes, Pericles, I am at your service. I have the sketches drawn, for the Parthenon." Puts you right into the classic picture, where the Acropolis, in its day, was a bigger provocation than the Albany Mall.
There are other social parallels, if you look for them, in the spectacle of a high but weakened civilization being overwhelmed by a determined force of hairies, the Spartans. And there are stirrings of feminism, too, even in the fifth century B.C., the heyday of the brainy courtesan, Aspasia…. A dormitory student at a school for courtesans, Aspasia confounds her math teacher, science teacher and gym teacher: ("… suddenly all was fire and shuddering transports beyond description").
After a tour of duty with a Mede satrap, whom she cures of the flux, Aspasia leaves for Athens an heiress, to start her famous school and to do her own thing. The rest is history…. The plague from which, according to the author, Aspasia's healing arts succor Pericles—at least temporarily. And the ubiquitous Spartans. All of which is enrobed in the author's familiar verbosity, which can leave you crying for wine in the name of the gods.
Martin Levin, in his review...
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"But you can't marry me! You are—Jeremy Porter—a rich man and a lawyer, and I am only a servant girl!" So says Ellen Watson, a beautiful but dreadfully downtrodden housemaid in turn-of-the-century Pennsylvania. Ellen is actually the illegitimate daughter of one of Philadelphia's first families, but this doesn't matter to Jeremy one way or another. He marries Cinder-Ellen when she is 17, and their life together, according to Taylor Caldwell, becomes a microcosm of the American apocalypse….
Caldwell's ["Ceremony of The Innocent"] finds her at the top of her form as a storyteller and as a vendor of the ideas that have surfaced in her novels since "Dynasty of Death." The story is pure melodrama, rich in characters you love to hate. And the ideology, in the light of the current conspiracy explosion, is beginning to seem less exotic.
Martin Levin, in his review of "Ceremony of the Innocent," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1976 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), October 31, 1976, p. 41.
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Ceremony of the Innocent is well written, but the plot remains unconvincing. This time the notion of a small group secretly controlling the world is implausible. The book may be of some interest because of its autobiographical insights. Miss Caldwell disavows autobiographical intent but also states that [the heroine] Ellen Porter's "thoughts have been my thoughts and her experiences mine also." The author would be well advised to seek another theme the next time.
Barbara Sicherman, in her review of "Ceremony of the Innocent," in Best Sellers (copyright © 1977 Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation), Vol. 36, No. 11, February, 1977, p. 346.
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The prolific and best selling Caldwell collaborates with [Jess Stearn in I, Judas], retelling the Judas Iscariot story from an angle that's unusual if not new. In what might almost be called The Gospel According to St. Judas, the protagonist describes how, loving Jesus more than the other disciples and having more faith in him, he "betrays" him only that Jesus may prove his messiahship and liberate both Israel and humankind. Judas tries to show, moreover, that it was really he who was betrayed…. The authors follow the events of the New Testament drama closely, give it a setting of some historical authenticity, and recreate, with middling success, its major participants, including John the Baptist, Caiaphas, Pilate, Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, the Apostles and of course Jesus. Their Judas isn't particularly convincing, though, and their whole narrative lacks subtlety and fire. It is, however pleasantly entertaining.
A review of "I, Judas," in Publishers Weekly (reprinted from the July 11, 1977 issue of Publishers Weekly, published by R. R. Bowker Company, a Xerox company; copyright © 1977 by Xerox Corporation), Vol. 212, No. 2, July 11, 1977, p. 74.
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The collaboration of Taylor Caldwell and Jess Stearn on their second novel, I, Judas, has resulted in an exceptionally interesting work….
Judas is depicted not as a poor thief, but as the educated son of a wealthy aristocrat. He sacrificed a large inheritance to follow Christ. We learn from Judas' actions that he is somewhat of an elitist, as he speaks of "another bleak Galilean fishing village with country clods in evidence wherever we went," a chauvinist, "for anybody who knows about women recognizes that they are the most devious and self-centered of creatures," but above all, a patriot devoted to freeing Israel from the tyranny of Rome. Caldwell and Stearn portray the character of Judas so effectively that we are forced to consider him as a human being with strengths and frailties, not as the archetypal betrayer.
After we accept Judas's humanity we find that perspective becomes a crucial issue. Caldwell and Stearn demonstrate well that reality itself is highly dependent upon perspective. Viewing Judas without taking his motivation into consideration, we see that it was he who caused Jesus to be brought to trial…. When we consider, however, that Judas was promised by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court, that Jesus would be acquitted, our view is somewhat altered. His devotion to Israel and belief in Jesus as the Messiah who could lead his oppressed country against Rome also influenced Judas' actions....
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[Taylor Caldwell's Bright Flows the River] is anti-establishment, anti-feminist, anti-democracy, anti-family, anti-power, anti-duty, and in fact anti almost everything save the right and the need of the individual to make the correct choice and philosophy of a way of life that is not counter to his very basic, personal tenets. Caldwell's prose is, most of the time, majestic and almost poetic. The characters, mostly men and four or five of the women, who she has peopled this—her thirty-second book—with, though not realistic or believable to me, are indeed unique.
The plot of the book itself is fascinating and easy to follow. Guy Jerald is a man who has gone after the American Dream of rags to riches and has triumphed. He has taken 900 acres of barren and almost worthless farmland and has built an empire. But is triumph success? Jerald, a man one would think has everything to live for, tries to kill himself in a most violent manner one night, and he is confined to a luxurious sanitarium. (pp. 34-5)
Through flashbacks we are introduced to Tom Jerald, Guy's father, the quintessential philosopher who has made the choice of being happily poor rather than being a professor, and his mistress—old, earthy Sal. We meet Guy's mother, whose gods are duty and money, his vapid wife, Lucey, his vacuous, greedy children, his brother-in-law, Hugh, with a wife the equal of Guy's, who has a mistress to make his life happy....
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Anne Marie Stamford
After thirty-two novels it's good to see that Taylor Caldwell hasn't lost her touch. Her superb style of storytelling turns the ordinary theme of Bright Flows the River into an extraordinary and memorable novel….
The only reservation that I have is that some of the characters border on clichés, but this somehow did not detract from my enjoyment. In a novel in which most of the action takes place in the minds on the characters, Caldwell manages to sustain the suspense of an adventure story. I think that this is a relevant and thought-provoking book.
Anne Marie Stamford, in her review of "Bright Flows the River," in Best Sellers (copyright © 1979 Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation), Vol. 38, No. 11, February, 1979, p. 337.
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Although there's no dearth here of Caldwell's portable sermonettes on such evils as soft living, [Answer As a Man, a] turn-of-the-century Pennsylvania tale of rags to riches and love tangles, has the ease and zip of the author's earlier period. The hero and true M-A-N of the title is Jason Garrity, only approved kin of his grandfather, Bernard. Bernard is another true M-A-N, plumping for solid male strength and putting a fist in the face of the flabby, whining, slimy world. As for wimmin: "they should niver have the rearing of men children." So Jason has enough gumption to survive childhood and youth in a shantytown house with his widowed mother, his fatuously religious brother John, his dazzlingly beautiful, crippled, vindictive sister Joan; and then, through shrewd business sense and hard work, he begins to stake out his territory, profit-wise. Eventually he'll even be manager of a Pocono summer hotel, the Ipswich House, and he'll use his inheritance of some land to demand shares in the business. But Jason flunks the mating test, marrying whiny, snobbish, slightly stupid Patricia Mulligan by whom he has (he thinks) three children: son Sebastian is really the offspring of wily, charming chum Lionel Nolan. Then Lionel marries Joan; and Molly, the spirited, sensible girl Jason should have married, marries agreeable lawyer Daniel Dugan, nephew of Jason's genial father-in-law Pat. So it takes some years of domestic and fiscal turmoil before...
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Taylor Caldwell is a shining exemplar of Grey Power, still churning out highly successful novels in which she loftily pretends the 20th century—at least in fiction—never happened.
Millions of readers must agree that the narrative innovations of Proust and Joyce, to say nothing of Beckett and Borges, were all a mistake; that old-fashioned linear realism is still the best mode for fiction. So her ["Answer as a Man"] reads the way the works of Arnold Bennett or Theodore Dreiser would read if they hadn't been geniuses. On a certain level, Miss Caldwell steadfastly insists on providing a "good read."
This time her hero is Jason Garrity, born at the end of the 19th century to a desperately poor family of Irish immigrants in the grim little town of Belleville, Pa….
Miss Caldwell presents [Jason] as a contemporary Job, a heavy burden for a character compounded largely of Horatio Alger and pasteboard.
Like Archibald MacLeish's "J.B." and most other modern parallels to the Job story, "Answer as a Man" reduces the biblical account of a good man's suffering at the hands of an autocratic God to something closely resembling soap. But it's first-class soap, vastly superior to the suds you get on television, if not comparable to the tough-minded—and far more compact—Bible story.
Richard Freedman, in his review of "Answer As a Man," in The New...
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