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Book Review: "Mildred Pierce"

I found the title Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity) on a list of classic mysteries, and chose it to fulfill that category of the “2012 Back to the Classics Challenge.” I waited for the murder, or physical attack, but it never came. Instead–as the back cover states–the story was rife with “devastating emotional violence.”

It is 1931, during the Great Depression. Mildred, an attractive woman in her late twenties, finds herself alone to raise two daughters after booting out her unemployed philanderer of a husband. Through hard work and determination, she makes use of her great legs and excellent kitchen skills to pull her and her girls out of poverty.

Her fatal flaw, however, is an unreasonable devotion to her older daughter, Veda, a strikingly cold, haughty, and manipulative child.

To say I was drawn into the 297-page story does not cut it. I read the book in a day and a half and that’s only because I had other obligations. The protagonist often got on my nerves. Her behavior was frustrating at times and her world view foolish. Yet, I was quickly hooked and cared deeply about her and the other characters.

The book was fast-paced and far more gritty than I thought books were in 1941, the year of its publication. James Cain’s storytelling skills are top-notch and I will seek out his other works. I recommend this to anyone who likes intense drama.

4 comments on “Book Review: "Mildred Pierce"

  1. HI Mary Beth, I'm on a blog hop from the Back to the Classics Challenge by Sarah Reads Too Much. I like your blog and your review of Mildred Pierce. If I'm not mistaken she has some resemblance to Emma Hart in Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford) But I do agree, she spoilt it all with her obssessive love for her older daughter. I can only imagine what chaos that will bring as the story unfolds. I do love drama (and history as well), so I'm sure to love this book.


  2. Mary Beth says:

    Welcome to my blog, CEStone, and thank you for your kind words. As you can see, I visited your lovely blog as well. I have not read “Woman of Substance,” but will check it out. I think if you are a lover of drama, “Mildred Pierce” is perfect for you. Please visit again and I will stop by “Reading Pleasure.”


  3. This sounds really good. I was tempted to watch the HBO miniseries, but held back – probably subconsciously waiting to read the book first!


  4. Mary Beth says:

    Do read the book first. (It reads amazingly fast.) I rented the 1940 version with Joan Crawford and was surprised to see it begin with a murder. It was good, but the book created intrigue without that. I don't know how the HBO series handled it.


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