Another selection from the list of 100 Best Sellers of the last 100 years, this one is kind of a romance dealing with an unhappy marriage, eventual divorce, and an unwed mother who commits suicide.
Set in the period before and during the First World War in England, it features a nice, sincere, intelligent, sympathetic man whose “curse of being able to always see all sides of an issue” sets him apart from the passions sweeping his family, friends, and nation. He lives in a small town and works in a larger town at a firm which sells ecclesiastical and scholastic items to the high end institutions of God and learning.
He marries a young woman who turns out to be very class-minded and concerned about appearances. The marriage gradually disintegrates, and eventually the war comes and he enlists, is badly wounded and returned home to a cold and basically uncaring spouse. His attitude and ambitions at the firm had the principle and his minion wanting rid of him long before the war, so although he still has a place there, he seldom ventures to the office.
A young daughter of a very religious staff member of the firm is recommended by him for a position of companion to the elderly mother of a friend of his, and the friend is leaving for the war. The young man is killed, and the young woman moves on. Later, his wife hires her as a companion while he is serving in France, but feels the girl is too forward, and eventually fires her. He comes back from the war, and at one point the girl writes to his wife in desperation that she has fallen afoul of society, had an unwed pregnancy, and has no where to go which will accept her and her child. Our boy argues with his wife in favor of taking the girl in, the wife has a hissy fit, and leaves him, he brings the girl to live in his house, where the two of them are completely ostracized by everyone in the town, even his former friends. She then encourages him to take a seaside vacation, and commits suicide and infanticide in his absence, for which he is tried as a murderer.
Meanwhile, and isn’t there always a meanwhile, the woman who he really loves when faced with the decision of whom to marry in their youth, chose a wealthy Lord, who turned out to be a rotter, our guy married the snitty woman, the Lord was killed in the war, the snitty wife divorces our guy, and who would believe it but damn! the two original lovers get together and get married.
Not really a new plot, but it was very readable, and was a best seller in 1922. I liked it, and I have stopped snagging books at the year 1922 on this list, as there are so many that seem good. Onward and upward.