MILDRED PIERCE by James M. Cain
Kirkus Star

MILDRED PIERCE

Featured vintage review selection (week of February 18, 2013)
Note from Kirkus' Vintage Review Editor:

We don’t mean it as a slight to the stellar list of nominees for this Sunday’s Academy Awards, but we’re thinking about past Oscars ceremonies this week. In 1941, we gave a rare star to Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain, an incisive novelist and equally observant screenwriter. Cain, of course, is a master of suspense, but Mildred Pierce revealed his depth in developing characters, especially women. Cain adapted the novel into a Joan Crawford movie of the same title (for which she won an Oscar for Best Actress in 1945); Todd Haynes created his own version for HBO in 2011. For those of you who loved Cain’s Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice (either in print or on film), you’ll be thoroughly satisfied with this vintage gem from the World War II era.



KIRKUS REVIEW

The author of The Postman Always Rings Twice and Serenade turns from the shock technique of both of these to present an incisive, full length portrait of a woman in business, and her emotional dependency on her coldblooded, greedy, captious daughter -- Veda. There is much of Dreiser in the portraiture, a solid, sound picture of personality and emotional strains and stresses, tensed to breaking points. There is also a thematic resemblance to Fannie Hurst's Imitation of Life. In slow, sure fashion Mildred emerges, in all her strong weaknesses and weak strengths, in her relations with the husband she kicks out, with her lovers, and with Veda, whom she fears and respects. And there is her golden touch in the restaurant business, originating in her ability to make pies. A climax is reached when Veda, now a radio star, steals her mother's second husband, Monty, and Mildred, stripped of her wealth, daughter and possessions, remarries her first husband. Less thunder and lightning, less flamboyance, than in his previous books -- but there is the same knowledge of people and narrative momentum which carries the book, and the reader, right along. Sure sales and rentals.
Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 1941
ISBN: 0679723218
Page count: 308pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1941




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