(Janet Miriam) Taylor (Holland) Caldwell Richard A. Cordell - Essay

Richard A. Cordell

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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 Side of Innocence"] she has only a modest cast of characters, and not the bewildering regiments of Bouchards who march through the pages of the horrifying trilogy of the munitions family. This novel gains in intensity by the simplification and also from the skilful, Ibsenish manner in which the characters work out their destinies without resort to outside aid or deus ex machina.

Richard A. Cordell, "Mrs. Caldwell's Latest Annual," in The Saturday Review of Literature (© 1946 Saturday Review Magazine Co.), Vol. XXIX, No. 19, May 11, 1946, p. 36.