Taylor Caldwell Essay - Critical Essays

Caldwell, Taylor

Caldwell, Taylor 1900–

A British-born American novelist, Miss Caldwell has written Dear and Glorious Physician and Dialogues with the Devil. More recently, she has published The Search for a Soul, an examination of reincarnation in terms of her personal experience. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed.)

It has been suggested by the author that her novels are too clean for TV or motion pictures. Maybe [Testimony of Two Men] since it is a bit spicey with the language of medicine and the brusque brutality of the hero—might add that filip which the camera needs for our mid-day audiences and viewers….

I am sure that my feelings and my reading experience of these many years of reviewing novels bid me say that this novel is not true to life. The long speeches of various actors within it decrying income taxes, socialization, the liberal views of Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and a host of others—(especially those quotations from the classical authors and all supporting the author's thesis that America is on the threshold of awful decay because of our coddling of the poor and our foreign involvements) is just too much to bear. I say this most of all because I resent such debates through the mouths of literary people. I really do not think this is the field for the novelist, but rather for the campaign platform. But it is fascinating and the author writes well.

Eugene J. Linehan, S.J., in Best Sellers, May 15, 1968.

This is a lean season for inspirational novelists. Except for Taylor Caldwell, who tools on as timelessly as a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud, hardly shifting gears from one volume to the next.

In this massive Bible story [Great Lion of God] Miss Caldwell elaborates on the life of St. Paul somewhat in the manner of Cecil B. DeMille—fleshing out history with opulent background and manufactured dramatic incident. Sometimes the prose has a tombstone quality…. Sometimes it gives history a House and Garden flavor…. The frequency of antique diction makes it sometimes seem as if the author were writing with her little finger extended—but it all works for her loyal readers, because of the excellent story sense she brings to her convictions.

Marvin Levin, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1970 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 17, 1970, pp. 38-9.

[Great Lion of God] is long and slow paced as we are led through the past—through the cities, looking at the slaves, experiencing the plague, gazing at the world that seems charged with the grandeur of God and the squalor of men. Almost endless details set the tone and atmosphere….

The lavish style keeps things going slowly. The longwinded thoughts, so precious to the one who thinks them, are tedious to read….

An enormous amount of time must have been devoted to research for this book. The aim seems to be how to produce the greatest amount of dramatic effect at the least expense of historical truth.

Clara M. Siggins, in Best Sellers, June 15, 1970.

Secrets … secrets … They grow like fungi in Taylor Caldwell's jungle of a novel [Captains and the Kings]. Young Rory Armagh "must never know" that his robber baron father Joseph is secretly sabotaging his marriage. Joseph "must never know" that his wife drove their daughter Ann Marie out of her wits. "I can't tell you," cries dashing Courtney Hennessey's mother. "If I could I would. But you must believe me…."

Miss Caldwell's ladies—appropriately—have a decidedly ornithological bent. They can fling themselves "laughing and trilling" into someone's arms. And in extremis, one utters a "last sound, a fragile cry like a bird." Yes, there is something here for the birds.

Martin Levin, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1972 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 14, 1972, p. 36.