Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Tribute to BELVA PLAIN: 1915-2010

Upon early retirement, I began to read voraciously, probably trying to catch up from my super busy career years. When I did have a free moment late at night, I fell asleep in my chair. To spend all the time I wanted in the library was like putting a kid in a candy store.

I discovered Belva Plain’s novels right away. Although I’d not heard of her, I recognized a master novelist. Her first novel, “Evergreen,” published in 1978, spent 41 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list in hardcover and another 20 in paperback.

She wrote more than 20 bestselling novels over several decades, an achievement she began working toward only after her children grew up and she became a grandmother. In longhand, she wrote on a yellow pad, creating epic novels of family and forgiveness that were adored by her fans.

“Evergreen” follows the story of Anna, a feisty, red-headed Jewish immigrant girl from Poland in turn-of-the-century New York, whose family saga continues through several decades and three more books. In this first novel, Anna is torn between the love and ambitions of two men.

Those who loved her said that Ms. Plain was a country girl at heart. She spent her childhood summers in the family’s home in New Canaan, Conn., where she learned to milk cows and frolicked with her dog.

Critics weren’t kind to Belva Plain. One wrote that her books were “fat with plot and sentiment, thin in nearly every other way.” Such opinions did not stop millions from enjoying her books, often described as “big, cozy entertaining reads,” Ms. Plain saw nothing wrong with being entertaining. She once said even geniuses entertained.

A quote from Belva Plain: “I got sick of reading the same old story, told by Jewish writers, of the same old stereotypes—the possessive mothers, the worn-out fathers, all the rest of the neurotic rebellious unhappy self-hating tribe. I wanted to write a different novel about Jews—a truer one.” She wrote about things that mattered most—family and friendship.

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  1. A wonderful tribute to a wonderful author. I enjoyed "Evergreen" and still remember parts of it and it has been YEARS since I read it. I had forgotten she started writing after she was a grandmother.

  2. I know I've read some of her books, Celia, but will have to go back and look to see which ones. I love her long epic type books. Nice post!

  3. I have read several of her books and thought they were wonderful. A wonderful tribute post.

  4. What a lovely tribute! Not only does it say a great deal about Belva but also about you. Celia you are a great author and a nice person.

  5. What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful author.

    Thanks, Celia. I'll have to pick up some of her works.

  6. I never read Belva Plain's books but enjoyed reading your great tribute to her.

  7. Another good friend mentioned Evergreen and how much she loves it as a recent tribute. It's now on my to-read list. You know how I love family sagas and relationship novels. ;-)