Mildred Pierce, by James M. Cain

I am pretty sure that the moral of this story is that I should never ever ever have children. Because clearly they will either be delightful children, in which case they will die awful and expensive deaths, or they will be evil incarnate and ruin my life all while making me think that I’m ruining theirs. I can’t have either of these. I renew my No Babies pledge!

Really, though, that’s pretty much how this book goes. Mildred has a deadbeat, cheating husband, who once had money but then the Great Depression happened and he’s too proud to go out and find some more, and she (fairly rightfully) kicks him out to go live with his sugar momma, only to realize that now she’s going to have to go get a job, which she does as secretly as possible because she is just as proud as that husband of hers. But she does find a job, and things start going pretty well for her, until they start going badly. And then Mildred fixes that, and things go well again. Until they go badly. And then things get fixed again. Then broken again. It is a terrible cycle, one that I am not unfamiliar with in my own life (can I have a job yet, economy?).

Mildred’s problem, really, is that she puts too much faith in people who are out to screw her (figuratively and other figuratively), and takes for granted the people who are wonderful to her. And what’s worse is that she mostly knows it, but lets herself get dragged into it anyway. But she is amazingly resilient, and while I would not like to have her odd thoughts running around in my head, I would be delighted to have her ability to overcome adversity.

And the last few sentences of this novel just sum up all of my feelings about it, so perfectly.

I may have wanted to punch every character (except maybe two or three) in this book right in the face at some point in time, but isn’t that how life is? I think that Cain has really hit on a perfect description of a person with a pretty good life in a pretty terrible time, and all of the characters ring true, whether we’d like to know them or not. I have nothing but praise for Cain’s writing, and I’m really glad that I got this novel as part of an anthology of his work so I can delve into some more of it soon.

Blast, this means that the rest of my book club is going to hate this book. I’d better start preparing a defense now!

Recommendation: Read this if you can deal with some incredibly frustrating characters and don’t mind a story that doesn’t really have a plot.

Rating: 9/10
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3 thoughts on “Mildred Pierce, by James M. Cain

  1. Alison says:

    I really liked it. I had a thought to give it a lower score, but I couldn't justify it! I think I might have an author crush on Mr. Cain.

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