Books: 1904

2 minute read

THE SISTERS—Myron Brinig—Farrar & Rinehart ($2.50).

In 1904 there were iron deer on U. S. lawns, lending the last touch of grandeur to the fancy wooden scrollwork of the mansions behind them. Every home that could afford one had a “den,” with leather armchair, pennants on the wall, an ashtray shaped like a skull. Lucky theatre-goers saw Ben Hur, with real horses racing madly on a treadmill track. Cars were called “au-to-mo-biles,” 25 miles an hour was a devilish pace, a puncture a major accident. Against such a 1904 backdrop, Author Brinig this week published a lengthy (570-page) tale that covered the U. S. from San Francisco to Manhattan, from Main Street in Montana to high life in Saratoga. Readers who flinch at phantoms need have no fear. Author Brinig is content with summoning his ghosts, asks them no embarrassing questions. A chronicle with no discernible moral, message or meaning—except that 1904 has gone forever—The Sisters is a good but not Great American Novel.

Of the three daughters of a druggist in Silver Bow, Mont., Louise was most beautiful, Grace most domestic, Helen most electric. Louise was one of nature’s noblewomen and great things were expected of her, so when she eloped with a hard-drinking sports writer, Silver Bow was shocked. After many an up & down, Louise’s husband left her, shipped as a sailor the night before the San Francisco earthquake. The shock and the quake combined gave Louise brain fever. A friendly floozy took her in, and she recuperated in a bawdy house. Then she married a rich Jew, and settled down to be the gracious lady nature had intended her to be. Grace, left at home in Silver Bow, caught Louise’s old beau on the rebound, married him and became the most respectable matron in town. She had her domestic troubles, too, but she managed her husband like the small boy he was, soon had him where she wanted him.

Helen, the problem child, was boy-crazy from the start, but not so crazy that she miscalculated her own value. Her first marriage, to a fat old copper tycoon, got her out of Silver Bow to the happy hunting grounds of the East. There she had a series of affairs, a series of marriages, at book’s end was still going strong as a problem child in her fifties.

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