Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain
“Mildred Pierce had gorgeous legs, a way with a skillet, and a bone-deep core of toughness. She used those attributes to survive a divorce and poverty and to claw her way out of the lower middle class. But Mildred also had two weaknesses: a yen for shiftless men, and an unreasoning devotion to a monstrous daughter.
Out of these elements, Cain creates a novel of acute social observation and devastating emotional violence, with a heroine whose ambitions and sufferings are never less than recognizable.”
James M. Cain is recognized today as a master of the hard-boiled American novel. What the heck is a hard-boiled novel you ask? Hard-boiled is genre of fiction, a literary style most commonly associated with detective stories, distinguished by the unsentimental portrayal of violence and sex. The style was pioneered by Carroll John Daly in the mid-1920s, popularized by Dashiell Hammett over the course of the decade, and refined by Raymond Chandler beginning in the late 1930s.
I loved the book but occasionally, I want to reach through the pages, grab Mildred by her shoulders, and shake some sense into her! I definitely intend to read more of Cain’s work. He also wrote The Postman Always Rings Twice and I’ve already added it to my to-read list. If you intend to read this book you should keep in mind that it was first published in 1941 and it is about life in the depression, so the language used is quite different. I loved that it was written from a third person point of view. Lately almost everything I read is in first person pov so it was a nice change.
I think Cain did an excellent job of portraying Mildred as a woman who would do whatever she needed to do to give her children the best, whether or not it was actually the best for them. A lot of men try to write stories from a female point of view and fail miserably. Mildred is an enabler of the first degree but she can cook and bake better than anyone in Glendale, CA. Not to mention she’s apparently got sweet legs. She’s a strong woman, stronger than she gives herself credit for I think, but she can’t seem to grasp the one thing she wants most.
Published March 22nd 2011 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (first published 1941)