MADAME by John Selby


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She was a damned old despot....but what will we do without her?"" -- This sums up Gertrude Olivier Donner -- but leaves unsaid the servant girl to multimillionaire success story told in these pages. It is a sort of modern Horatio Alger tale, stripped of the sentimentality and the piety, for Gertrude Donner got to the top by treading on others, by learning how to play her cards, by grim determination and unflagging effort and deep conviction that Gertrude Donner knows best. The heights and the abysses revealed in the contrapuntal method chosen to tell the story give almost a caricature effect of exaggeration, which hurts the quality of the overall. There are no subtleties, no light and shadow -- and this is unlike John Selby in some of his earlier carrier books. The Man Who Never Changed (1954) had something of this impact of a personality bludgeoning his way to his goal -- but it had undertones and overtones that Madame lacks. There are other factors that will build popular appeal, perhaps. The mass market likes -- even today when prosperity is not a class mark -- to be handed out the lavishness of excessive display, the of advertised success, the flashiness of new wealth. Madame is the country's most successful woman columnist; her public adores her; she plays up to what she thinks they expect. But the core of the story revolves around her relations with her children whom she has destroyed as human beings. One son is a lush; one is a homosexual, her daughter is emerging from nymphomathia into what may be a happy, sixth marriage... Not top drawer but saleable.

Publisher: Dodd, Mead