Not surprisingly, the Great Depression of the 1930s put a crimp in romance. The marriage rate dropped, as many couples decided that they didn’t have enough money to set up independent households. Traditional dating presumably took a similar hit. Fiction of the period reflected economic changes. Stories of relationships between men and women increasingly featured characters in financial straits. The relationships themselves became more difficult to establish and maintain. Readers seeking fictionalized treatments of the problem may need to dig a bit to find them. Among California’s Famous Fifty only Ask the Dust focuses clearly on the issue. Lesser known novels, however, showed more interest in romance during hard times. Here are some books to read:
1. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? by Horace McCoy. A brief and thoughtful account of a relationship created at a marathon dance competition in Santa Monica.
2. Flowers for the Living by Charles Ray. Two former Hollywood studio players are drawn together by a need to find food.
3. The Uncertain Journey by Oscar Lewis. The depression exacerbates the problems of a middle-class San Francisco couple who probably shouldn’t be together in any case.
4. Moon Tide by Willard Robertson. A dream-like tale in which a waitress and a dock-worker set up housekeeping on a San Diego barge.
5. Deep Valley by Dan Totheroh. A story set in Big Sur of love between an isolated young woman and a convict laborer.
The books vary quite a bit in availability. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? is in print and in a Kindle edition. On the other hand, no internet booksellers and only five libraries have copies of Flowers for the Living. Interlibrary loan works for the remaining three novels, and copies at reasonable prices are available for all but Deep Valley.