THERE WAS A TIME by Taylor Caldwell


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Let's concede the fact of figures- Taylor Caldwell sells, and sells in enormous quantities. But somehow, it is hard to accept the inevitability of this new novel duplicating the big sales figures of its predecessors. It hasn't what it takes- except in so far as her name carries impetus. Ordinarily one can count on a lusty, fast paced story, replete with detail of background, period and furbishings. This has the detail, now and again, as the scene shifts from England to New York state on the Canadian border (Buffalo is readily recognizable under the name of ""Bison""), and again to the Kentucky mountains -- but there's none of that identity of story and characters with their settings which gave a feeling of veracity to her earlier books. Once more it is a good long read- measured in pages turned- but there's not the overflowing of plot within plot that keeps one going in most of her books. Here the plot seems almost tenuous, as Frank-detestable from boyhood to his egotistical achievement of a dream -- grows up. Presumably, one's sympathy is captured, as a small boy battles the intolerances and cruelties of children who hate anyone who is ""different""; presumably, one regrets his loss of the one friend he had -- his inability to make more- his denial of a chance at schooling- his suffering from a poverty that was unwarranted- his mounting obsession for acquiring money to buy his freedom from fear- his horrible parents. But quite honestly, I didn't care; it all seemed part of a pattern he made for himself. Even his romance left me cold, though it was easy to guess that in maturity he would meet again little Jessica, dream princess of his childhood. At the end, his ideals discarded, he finds success -- and goes to claim her as his own. There's a note of irony at the close, a confession of false gods, clay-footed. But little to suggest that Frank of tomorrow will be able to cast off the Frank of yesterday....But the book will sell.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1947
Publisher: Scribner