enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: John D. MacDonald, Contrary Pleasures

I read this book about 9-May-2004. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1954. This note was last modified Tuesday, 03-Jul-2012 09:27:51 PDT.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


Not McGee, of course (no color in the title).

This is a strange one. The title, the cover, and the jacket copy don't really have much to do with the story. Not that that's completely unique in the history of publishing.

This is a story about a family. The three brothers and the sister own the family's "mill" (weaving and knitting plant) in New York. It's been nearly in trouble since this generation inherited it. Brother Ben actually runs the plant, and has been making slow headway in getting out of trouble by his own good guesses and by having other executives who can guess well. Brother Quinn is an executive in the plant, but is completely useless. Brother Robby works for the US State Department in Mexico, and is coming back with his bride to meet the family. Sister Alice is married to a builder. There are also children in most of the families. There's sexual repression, discovery, enhancement, and general screwed-upedness, and even reawakening. Quinn is having an affair with a mill-girl, partly because his wife's strong sexuality makes him feel inadequate. He snaps, or something, and ends up beating the girl (thinks he killed her) and committing suicide. But nearly everything else is good—Alice's husband George decides to move back towards being a good builder, Ben's son Brock decides to work and maybe join the army and then go back to school and also meets a nice girl for the summer, Robby's wife is solid and smart and she and Ben think Robby can become of value to the business, and Ben decides not to sell the plant for the fairly good offer he has, but to really dig in and pull it back up into being something.

So I don't know what the "secret" referred to in

They had wealth, power, and influence—and a secret that threatened to destroy them...

Nor what they're on about in

Evil casts a long shadow...and touches the innocent along with the guilty in this powerful novel of a family that can no longer hide from the world—or from one another.

It seems rather short of plot, really. There isn't a sweep of movement, and events don't move by cause and effect. It's actually a large collection of character studies; which, as I've said before, is what MacDonald is really good at.

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David Dyer-Bennet