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Mildred Pierce, James M. Cain (1941)

When my book club picked Mildred Pierce for our February book, the only thing I knew about it was that the HBO miniseries got plenty of buzz at the 2011 Emmy’s. I figured that if the miniseries was good, the book must be too. Luckily, I was right.

This book is not “good” in the traditional sense, with the traditional battles of good/evil, love/hate etc. This book is driven purely by the reader’s schadenfreude–you turn pages quickly because you so desperately want to see the bad people suffer. There is not a single likeable main character. Some are bad, some are mean, some are pathetic. None of them are admirable. I found the plot gripping and wanted to keep reading and reading and reading, if only to see the dislikeable characters get their comeuppance, and the rare good displayed be rewarded.

THIS PART IS A SPOILER:

IT DOESN’T HAPPEN. EVER. Good things happen to bad people. I want Bad people to suffer consequences, terrible terrible consequences. I want Good people to be rewarded. That never, ever happens here. The Bad people revel in their badness and reap reward after reward, and the Good people suffer.

I didn’t end this book disappointed because the writing was so engaging and because there is a certain level of resolution at the very end. Also, I really do like books that are filled with baddies. The Believers and Notes on a Scandal (both by Zoe Heller) are some favorites that come to mind.

Mildred Pierce was adapted to an Oscar winning film starring Joan Crawford in 1945, and the Emmy-winning miniseries starring Kate Winslet just came out on HBO last year. I can’t wait to see them both!

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