It was Anbolyn of Gudrun’s Tights who nominated the author Edna Ferber for the CPR Book Group, the idea of which is to give neglected authors and or books a bit of a boost and breath some new life into them. So thank-you Anbolyn because I hadn’t even heard of Ferber who was so popular in the 1920s and 30s and even won a Pullitzer Prize.
I started off with Show Boat which I think everyone will know was made into a Broadway musical in 1927. The 1951 movie is so famous that it’s one of those ones which I’m not sure if I’ve actually seen in entirety or maybe I’ve just seen lots of clips over the years. Anyway next time it’s on TV I’m going to watch it to see if it differs from the book.
I really enjoyed this. The show boat is the Cotton Blossom Floating Palace Theatre and it plies its trade on the Mississippi River, calling in at towns on the river as the local crops ripen and the inhabitants have money in their pockets. Magnolia’s parents are the boat owners, they are Captain Andy Hawks and Parthenia Ann Hawks and while Andy is a popular and kind chap, Parthy is a grim-faced terror with a dislike of the theatre, actors and just about everything else. She has a tongue that would cut cloot (cloth) – as we say here.
Against Parthy’s wishes Magnolia ends up on the stage and when they call in to St Louis she falls for the wonderfully named Gaylord Ravenal, who ends up joining the show boat’s cast.
That’s a brief outline but there’s lots going on in this book with characters being accused of miscegenation (marriage between a black person and a white person) which was illegal in some places in America at the time and that ‘n’ word is used quite a lot by the more ignorant characters. One of the characters is ‘passing’ as a white person.
As a Jew Edna Ferber was no stranger to prejudice but it didn’t stop her from having a very successful career as a writer, which you can read about here. I have one other book by her – Ice Palace, but I’ll certainly be looking out for more in the future.
I’ve loved the idea of a Mississippi river boat since I started reading Mark Twain years ago but I know that the reality would kill me in no time – too hot!