Wednesday, September 14, 2022

BOOK REVIEW: Louisville Saturday by Margaret Long

It’s hard to gin up much enthusiasm for another WWII novel, but this one is different. Published in 1950, Louisville Saturday by Margaret Long was written as a contemporary novel, not a historical. It has an immediacy and a truth to it that makes it stand out. The prose and dialogue feel old-fashioned but I love older books so it was easy enough to ease into it. There is, unfortunately, horrific racism and anti-Semitism throughout – true to the times but nevertheless awful to read. And, although my library copy was a hardcover with a nondescript red with black dot design, the original cover (the one I’m displaying) would make it an embarrassing book for me to read in public.

Nevertheless! It’s a compelling read. The novel focuses on the women at home in 1942 on a single Saturday in a single city. It begins with a military parade demonstrating the new mechanized strength of the U.S.A. armed forces courtesy of the soldiers of Fort Knox. Eleven women are introduced to the reader by their reactions to the parade – all a variation on unease. Then each of the women is explored further in this two part novel, with each women getting a chapter in each of the two parts.

The character sketches are in-depth and emotionally riveting. They display a cross-section of Louisville society, from old to very young, rich to poor, stay-at-home moms to factory workers to volunteers. It’s an earthy book. The women are sexual creatures whether single, faithful wives, or adulterers. It’s an extraordinary look at women of the times. 

And then, in the background, there is the war. Some have lost loved ones. Some are struggling with the absence of men at the front. Some are dreading the impending departure of their men. And some are dealing with the consequences of being with men who are not joining the fight for one reason or another. The war is an oppressive presence in all of their lives.

It’s well worth reading for the contemporary insights, unpalatable though many of them are.

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