My rating: 4 of 5 stars
For the first time in a long while, I bought this book on purpose with the intent of reading it. Despite that, I may still be a bit biased as I just love the movies of the 40s and 50s that came about because of this book so I might be a bit biased.
As usual, starting with the positive, this book is a delicious snapshot of the time in which it was written. Characters are colorful and varied and painted with a broad and amusing brush. I was especially delighted when I realized (or remembered) that Ma and Pa Kettle made their debut to the world in this novel. The portrayal of those characters is rather harsher and more negative than their on-screen depiction, but they’re certainly recognizable. The author has a wry comic wit that falls just short of actual laughter. This one is a classic archetype of the day.
To the negative side of the ledger, the book is rather a random hodgepodge. Timelines bounce back and forth with seeming randomness and the whole thing is very much in the form of someone’s stories told around the kitchen table committed to paper. Little attention has been paid to the narrative long form and near the end especially things just don’t hang together very tightly.
In summary, this is a fast and entertaining read but no work of great literature. It has much to reveal about the time and place of subject and does so with some comedic effect, but falls short of outright guffaws.