Flesh Is Weak by Florence Stonebraker. Quarter Books (1951), 128 pp.
Sue Howell, beautiful and sexy, has dropped out of high school and made no plans for the future. She could help her mother, Lily, manage the San Francisco apartment house in which they live, but Sue has no interest routine work. She could marry dweebish Herbie Nickels, who runs a soda fountain and is madly in love with her, but she finds him repellent. What she wants to do is marry unemployed pianist Kevin Kramer, whose apartment she often sneaks upstairs to visit. While he enjoys sex with Sue, Kevin is looking for a sugar mama to sponsor his musical career. Marriage is not in his plans. Sue realizes that her good looks allow her to manipulate men -- she has little problem seducing a trouble-making police officer, for example -- but she’s not yet close to finding a way to exploit her sex appeal for long-term benefit.
As in several other novels from her digest period (1950-54), Stonebraker doesn’t want readers to make adverse moral judgments about her protagonist. Sue suffers from weak parenting -- her mother is overly solicitous and her deadbeat father doesn’t even like her -- scuzzy living conditions, and men who treat her as a sex object. She hasn’t developed interests aside from love and fashion, and her only friend is a prostitute who lives in her building. As usual, Stonebraker wants to generate some sympathy for her lead character. What’s different here is stylistic. While the author uses free indirect discourse in other books, she seems to be relying on it with striking frequency in this one. Her third-person narrator routinely summarizes a character’s thoughts in the same syntax and with the same word usage as the character employs in conversation. So sometimes the wall between narrator and character falls away. Readers can probably ask for no more in a book of this type.