I read So Big, by Edna Ferber, two years ago and really liked it. Novels of the 1920s often have a quiet but compelling grace. No fireworks, no violence just to get our blood pressure skyrocketing, not a lot of whining or self analyzing. They're about life as many people knew it, hard and relentless. The people are accepting of their lot or, if not, are willing to work hard to change it. There's little sense of entitlement, as in many stories of today.
This year, I read Show Boat, by the same author. I'd include a photo but my copy is a 3-in-one volume of no particular beauty and without a dust jacket. It's got So Big, Show Boat, and Cimarron in it.
Show Boat is mostly the story of Magnolia (Nola) Ravenal, nee Hawks. Her father, Captain Andy Hawks, is a feisty little river boat captain, owner of the show boat Cotton Blossom. He knows every inch of the Mississippi and her tributaries, he knows the moods of the river. It's a living thing to him and the other rivermen. He takes the boat, its crew, and its cast of actors up and down the rivers, stopping in river towns to regale the townspeople and the backwoods people with plays and music. It's a real treat for them. They save their money and drive or walk miles to attend the show.
Captain Hawks meets a New England school teacher named Parthenia. She is stern and unyielding and thinks plays and acting and dancing and music are sinful and a waste of good time. But Andy shows her the boat and tells her how profitable it is. She eventually comes around and takes over much of the management of the boat - to the annoyance of the crew and cast. She's the queen of the Cotton Blossom.
Magnolia is born, becomes an actress on the boat, to her mother's dismay, and elopes with the dashing Gaylord Ravenal, hired as an actor but really a professional gambler. Gay and Parthy do not get along and he and Nola leave the boat. Their life is a pendulum swinging from riches to poverty, depending on Gay's luck at the card table. Nola wants stability for their daughter, Kim, born on the riverboat during a terrible storm. Kim goes to a convent boarding school and becomes a famous actress.
I didn't get too involved with the story until I got close to the end. In my opinion, a lot of the book is flat, like someone relating facts and stories without a lot of emotion. It didn't keep my interest like So Big did, but I don't feel that I wasted my time reading it. I'm curious to find out what Cimarron is like.