Late September by Gladys Johnson. Macrae-Smith (1932), 299 pp.
Passion has disappeared from the life of San Francisco businessman Richard Carewe. He wonders if and how he can get it back. Florrie, his wife of twenty years, is unlikely to provide a solution. Relieved that their sex life has ended, she revels in her growing frumpiness. Richard’s imminent grandfatherhood at forty -- he’s just learned his daughter is pregnant -- seems to be forcing old age upon him. His partner Will Gregory, also married for many years, has one answer: chase around with younger women. Elsa Gordon, divorcée on the prowl, is ready to get together at once. But it’s only when Richard meets Joyce Slater, a vibrant and alluring businesswoman, that he thinks seriously of taking action. He soon learns that Joyce’s marriage is in more trouble than his own.
This novel is notable in several ways. First, Gladys Johnson (1891-1933) focuses nearly all of her attention on Richard. His thoughts, feelings and actions form the core of the book. She takes his problems seriously. The way he comes to perceive his marriage is understandable, and his quest for passion is completely legitimate. Next, the author discards all the conventions of romance fiction. Traditional moral standards don’t lead to happiness, and marital bliss is at best delusional. The characters, conflicted and confused, behave like real people. Their fate is unclear until the end of the book. Finally, Johnson adopts a restrained prose style that matches the frankness of her presentation. She passes up opportunities for melodramatic scenes and verbal confrontations. In short, this is a remarkable novel that seems altogether modern in its attitudes. It deserves a wide audience.