His sister’s eyes followed his to the maple gate-legged table in front of the long French window which framed a view of a russet-tinged lawn […] Beyond it blue water stretched to the purple haze of the horizon like a sea of sparkling sapphires streaked with malachite, above it thin filaments of fleecy cloud striped a turquoise sky.
I could so easily devour Fair Tomorrow in one sitting. I started it in June, limiting myself to a chapter here and there, and about halfway through I just didn’t pick it up again. Part of the problem may be that I don’t let old books stay in the nightstand pile, but I think it goes a little deeper.
Over the summer I was in a bit of a blue funk; as much as I love being home again, it’s hard that my friends are now scattered around the country. Working weekends and evenings part-time meant that I wasn’t even on the same schedule as the few who are only an hour away. It’s not that I wasn’t happy, just that I felt a little world-weary and jaded now that I was supposed to be an adult. Fairy-tale romance was the last thing in the world I needed at the time.
And yet I kept coming back to it in spurts, wishing I could enjoy it again with an open mind, so that six months later it has finally won me over again. The novel is slightly campy by today’s standards, but I prefer it ever so much to modern books where happily ever after means sex instead of wedding bells.
image from Fanastic Fiction
When Pamela Leigh’s father goes bankrupt and falls ill, she abandons her writing dream and with her brother Terry must try to scrape a living together. Their daily struggles running a Chowder House from their New England cottage are compounded by creditors. Luckily, two men come to Pam’s rescue: Scott Mallory, a promising lawyer who untangles the family finances, and dashing Phil Carr, who helps build a guest house. Pamela may finally be able to stop putting her family first, but only if her father’s estranged second wife will leave them alone.
As you can tell from the quote above, Emilie Loring liked to go a bit over the top in her phrasings and descriptions–especially involving colors and gemstones. Wikipedia credits her with always using catchphrases and metaphors to symbolize optimism throughout the book, like the title here, so that spotting them is almost a game. The plot also continues to pile up a series of incidents and coincidences, including a court scene Perry Mason would have been proud of.
I mention the silly things up front, but there’s also a lot to like about Fair Tomorrow. No historical novel can match one actually written in the 1930s, where the Depression is the impetus for Harold Leigh’s bankruptcy. I had to look up that a flivver is a type of car; the fashions and expressions are like a window into the past. The characters are also surprisingly well-rounded with dreams and flaws, with the possible exception of Scott. Pam is realistic instead of selfless, longing for the day when she can return to the city and pursue a writing career. We see her occasionally crack under the struggle and stress, or let her pride and temper get the better of her. It’s a refreshing balance of independence and a need to be taken care of (at least legally).
On another level the story acts as a Cinderella retelling, complete with wicked stepmother and knight in shining armor as Pamela slaves away in the kitchen. I’ve always wondered at the absent real father in the story, and here Emilie Loring explores that a bit with Mr. Leigh.
I want to keep looking for books like this to have on hand when I’m in the mood for fluff. A small part of me is still pushing against fairy tale endings, but I know I’d be more upset without them. I’m hoping this is a step on the road back to rose colored glasses!
(Unfortunately my version is without it’s lovely dust jacket. If I find a good enough picture I might try to make a facsimile based on other Grosset and Dunlap books I have.)