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Mildred Pierce: 12/22/19

Mildred Pierce

Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain is a biting look at middle class life in Los Angeles in the early decades of the twentieth century. It opens with a man going through his morning routine and then getting into a huge row with his wife, Mildred. He ends up leaving her and their kids. She gets the house and a mortgage she can't pay unless she finds work.

The remainder of the book is how Mildred rebuilds a life for herself and her children and ends up making a small empire for herself. After a disheartening (and sadly still realistic despite more worker protections for older workers) search for work, she finds her first job in a diner. She harnesses what she knows about household budgets and planning to see how the place can be run more efficiently.

There's a side plot where one of Mildred's daughters ends up being a starlet and manages to make money hand over fist. Here's an interesting look at greed — both personal and parental. Hollywood parents are often terrible to their children and wasteful with their children's money (though again there are now safeguards in place to make this more difficult)

There's enough still relevant in this novel that it could be updated for a modern film, set in the real estate bust of the mid 2000s, if Mildred were working at a trendy coffee brand and her daughter were in reality TV (such as American Idol).

Three stars

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