My rating: 3 of 5 stars
My apologies to any and all red headed women out there. This book does not paint you well at all. And in 1937, when the book was published, I’m sure plenty of auburn tresses were glared at while husbands’ arms were tightly gripped.
Beware the red-headed home wrecker.
Lillian Andrews was a stunningly beautiful, red-headed woman born on the wrong side of the tracks. Beautiful and ambitious. So ambitious, in fact, we could label her a gold digger. It didn’t take long for her to target her prize in the small town and acquire him through the art of seduction and youth. Starting off as William H. Legendre’s secretary, she eventually wheedles her way into his fickle mind so much so that he divorces his wife, Irene, (a charming, subtle woman) and marries Lily instead. Then he realizes his mistake. The grass looked greener on the other side only for dear William to discover he moved into a swamp.
But all is not how she thought it would be. Rather than entertaining guests in her newly furnished, lavish household the neighbors travel across town to dinner at Irene’s instead. At every turn she is shunned by the community and it vexes our anti-hero terribly. Perhaps the town is just too small for her, but will moving to a big city, sans her husband, save or destroy her? Will it give William and Irene a window to rekindle what was lost?
I can only offer three stars to the book because the character of Lillian is so detestable it’s disappointing. I wanted to like her, to love her for her charisma and shamelessness in standing out amongst the humdrum crowd of the little town’s aristocracy. But I couldn’t. She destroys a marriage between two well paired people and then runs her husband into the ground. The author puts her into situations where I think we are supposed to feel bad for her, but we can’t. There is nothing inherently good about her worth pitying. Honestly, the only person I felt sorry for was William. Irene was poised and strong enough to stand alone, but William was just stupid and naive, trapped in a situation chosen by the wrong brain… if you catch my drift.
Overall, the novel is well written, the characters round and fully developed, and the portrait of Lillian wholly convincing. On technicality alone it deserves five stars, but I simply just can’t give it. I didn’t enjoy the book as a leisurely read by any stretch of the imagination and when things did go wrong for Lillian I couldn’t even enjoy them because it usually ended up biting William instead of her.
I’d like to be able to recommend this novel to others, but I’m not sure I can risk my reputation on it. Let’s just say the read is… interesting.