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Mildred Pierce (1941)

by James M. Cain

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,1214114,692 (3.81)85
Mildred Pierce had gorgeous legs, a way with a skillet, and a bone-deep core of toughness. She used those attributes to survive a divorce and poverty and to claw her way out of the lower middle class. But Mildred also had two weaknesses: a yen for shiftless men and an unreasoning devotion to a monstrous daughter. Out of these elements, Cain creates a novel of acute social observation and devastating emotional violence, with a heroine whose ambitions and sufferings are never less than recognizable.… (more)
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English (37)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (1)  All languages (41)
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
A young wife, Mildred, faces life as a divorced, single mother during the depression. She takes the only work she can find as a waitress and slowly builds a restaurant empire.

As this is going on, both tragedy and triumph follows Mildred. The biggest tragedy of all is her awful oldest daughter. Self-involved and a complete snob, daughter Veda repeatedly betrays Mildred.

I found the book is a little different from the movie with Joan Crawford, but both the book and the movie are fantastic! ( )
  sriddell | Aug 6, 2022 |
Mildred Pierce by James Cain is an in-depth portrait of a woman, the rise and fall of her life and her emotional dependency on her coldblooded, greedy, manipulative daughter. Although Cain is well known for his Noir thrillers, this book is quite different being more of a novel of social observations.

Set during the years of the Great Depression this is a well crafted story peopled with excellent characters, some you love and some you hate. For me, Mildred was someone that I mostly pitied. No matter how well things were going in her life, her happiness rested solely with her daughter, Veda. As her marriage fails and new men enter her life and as she slowly builds up a good business from her humble beginnings as a waitress, all she can think about is how to please her demanding daughter. But Veda is impossible to fully please. She sees people as stepping stones to help her get where she wants to go, and she holds her mother responsible for everything that she sees as lacking in her life.

Mildred Pierce is a dark portrayal of human weakness and greed. Mildred is a strong but flawed woman whose aspirations are not for herself but rather for her children. Unfortunately her daughter is an empty vessel that no amount of caring or love will every fully satisfy. I found myself compelled by the characters and their story and also intrigued by the economic upheavals of 1930s California. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | May 6, 2022 |
Ok, I'd seen "The Postman Always Rings Twice" & even referenced it in a filmstrip title of mine ("The Postman Always Rings the Homunculous of Woody Allen & Hollis Frampton Twice") & used some sampled sound from its soundtrack for the aforementioned filmstrip's sound. & I'd seen "Double Indemnity" & liked that. But I'd never wanted to read Cain b/c I always had the impression that he was a realist writer who hadn't progressed that much on 19th century European literary forms.

But then I met Chelsey Minnis Schmidt & we bonded over James Ellroy & she got me a little interested in Cain so I picked up this novel by him when I was in Boulder w/ my conversation w/ Chelsey still on my mind. The back of the bk identifies it as "FICTION/CRIME" so I wasn't sure whether there'd be a murder or not.

Probably one of the things that ultimately impressed me about it is that Cain led up to quite a few scenes where a murder or other such violent death might happen.. & it DIDN'T. Cain's manipulation was obviously that of a writer accustomed to building up to crimes of passion & the like - but here he didn't need to resort to such shallow sensationalism in order to make the drama emotionally compelling.

Interestingly, in the 1945 Hollywood version of the novel, there IS a murder - thusly providing 2 versions for the world - one in wch someone gets their probably come-uppance & one where things are a bit more subtle.

The subtle part is about class. The despicable daughter is 'classy' & utterly unscrupulous. The mother WORKS & is honest. The novel is clearly on her side & so am I. Reading this was somewhat like watching a Fassbinder movie - something like "Fox and his Friends" - an agonizing experience for me personally since I have a particular hatred for parasites. Cain's novel, however, isn't quite so heavy-handedly tortuous as Fassbinder almost always was.

Despite the daughter's successful machinations, Mildred isn't completely destroyed & one can at least imagine that her life continued post-daughter w/ some degree of happiness & success. More power to the Mildred Pierces of the world - may they be less foolish & more rewarded. ( )
  tENTATIVELY | Apr 3, 2022 |
Definitely of its era, but a fascinating, astute look at a woman's rise & fall and her tortured relationship with her daughter. ( )
  wordloversf | Aug 14, 2021 |
NA
  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Cain, James M.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Berritz, SabineTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jonas, RobertCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Napolitano, MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the spring of 1931, on a lawn in Glendale, California, a man was bracing trees.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Mildred Pierce had gorgeous legs, a way with a skillet, and a bone-deep core of toughness. She used those attributes to survive a divorce and poverty and to claw her way out of the lower middle class. But Mildred also had two weaknesses: a yen for shiftless men and an unreasoning devotion to a monstrous daughter. Out of these elements, Cain creates a novel of acute social observation and devastating emotional violence, with a heroine whose ambitions and sufferings are never less than recognizable.

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