Reviews of Taylor Caldwell novels by the Descendents of Taylor Caldwell

The Descendants of Taylor Caldwell© is offering extended reviews of Caldwell's novels. Caldwell was prolific and extremely well-known from the late 1930s through the 1980s and was regularly found on best seller lists throughout this period. Her range in time, topic and character still recommends many of her novels to modern readers.

The following are the first of these planned reviews:

Taylor Caldwell's "Great Lion of God" 

It is one thing to have faith in Jesus, say in his resurrection, or that he is divine. It is quite another to understand Jesus. Paul understood Jesus. Considering the circumstances, it is puzzling just exactly how he did that. More puzzling still, how did Paul get so much of the rest of the world to try to do the same. 

 

Even if Jesus, on the road to Damascus enrolled Paul as a super apostle  that won’t explain how Paul continually had the intellect, courage, and motivation to set stray apostles, acolytes and tentative congregations back on track. 

Michael Fried

Taylor Caldwell's " Never Victorious, Never Defeated"

Our times are riven by outsized fortunes, and hidden methods of those who can afford expensive, ruthless lawyers to obfuscate how their personal world actually works. Taylor Caldwell explains it like a detective story showing key events baffling even her principle characters. She here, as also in Dynasty of Death,assembles a several generational family's plausible route to power. 

Melding all that requires much research, for the result appears as if she had stitched together actual records, family history, and personal predilections. Taylor Caldwell's collaboration with her 2nd husband, Marcus Reback, provided her tools – enhanced by her own brains and immense work ethic – to put that together. The result is one of her trademarks: a saga relevant to what we are reading today. I concentrate primarily on the complications of economics. 

Yet, I won't leave out Caldwell's feeling for what drives interpersonal relations. For that, I make one segue to a bestselling author today, one of whose masterpieces featured a relation with a fabulist element that Caldwell deftly anticipated.

Michael D. Fried, PhD

Taylor Caldwell's "Glory and the Lightning"

For almost 30 years Athens kept the aristocratic Pericles in power. They loved him for his smartness, his altruism and his personal avoidance of corruption. The details, though, matter. In the tradition of Solon, at a most turbulent time of engagement with the enemy City-State Sparta seeking advantage, Pericles exemplified a particular ideal of democracy. We know it as the Age of Pericles for good reason. 

 

Taylor Caldwell lavishes credit on his magnetic consort Aspasia. She was much more than a standout promulgator of higher education for women. On her own recognizance Aspasia established herself in Athens as the spirit of a French salon. Hers was the epitome of rejection of typical marriage. That this life style flourished in Athens could serve as the symbol of the contrast with the despised and feared Sparta. 

Michael D. Fried, PhD

Ms. Caldwell's "Dynasty of Death: Book One, Partners of Death`" Doubleday, 1938 ​

"Dynasty...," a three-family – Barbour, Bouchard and Sessions – saga, encompasses a great portion of the 19th century. This review treats Book one of three as if it – at nearly 500 pages on the first generation of the Barbour and Bouchard children – is a novel in itself. Saga writers carefully consider their characters' personality spectrum. Caldwell has fleshed out her character details. We naturally sense their roles in the growth and intertwining of these two families. She raises a dual column of ambition that plays out on the international scene, even as it adheres to small town life, writ large.  

 

Michael D. Fried, PhD

Taylor Caldwell's "Testimony of Two Men," 1st Published by Doubleday, 1968 

"Testimony ..." takes place at the turn of the 20th Century in a small Pennsylvania town close to Philadelphia. The most dynamic characters are a mother and son, Marjorie and Jon Ferrier. Yet, this story presents many others, spirited and well-conceived. Those with whom we might side are here struggling to understand why we so often regard certain public characters, who readily plays games with evil motives, as the epitome of virtue. The key target, Jonathan Ferrier, of those evil-doers has exposed their apparent virtues as a cover for heinous ambition and selfishness. 

Michael D. Fried, PhD

Other Critical and Published Reviews:

“The Late Clara Beame,” published in January 1963

This is the only mystery novel written by Taylor Caldwell

Unlike her lengthy and often ponderous historical fiction, “The Late Clara Beame” is a delightful, light and quick read, less than 200 pages.

 

It’s been said that Ms. Caldwell, an avid fan of Agatha Christie, was encouraged by a friend to write her own mystery novel. Apparently this was an attempt to see if she could live up to Christie’s crime capers. Certainly writing mysteries was nothing Caldwell planned to incorporate into her career as a novelist.

 

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Caldwell wrote this book in less than a week’s time, although it’s also been said she had difficulty creating a crime-infused plot because it was so different than anything else she ever wrote.

Patricia Nolan Stein

Comments on a long history of reading the Novels of Taylor Caldwell

Patricia Nolan Stein, whose mother first introduced her to Taylor Caldwell's novels, has read them all throughout the years. Her overall perspective concludes with her wondering what Ms. Caldwell would make of our contemporary times.  

 

I have added editorial comments. In those comments, "Peggy" refers to Taylor Caldwell's daughter who survived her demise, and who wrote an unpublished autobiography, that is clearly a biography of TC.  

Mike Fried

Patricia Nolan Stein

“No Eunuch Ever Wrote a Book”

That was the late novelist Taylor Caldwell’s take on her phenomenally successful career, but she is no longer a well-known name among avid fiction readers. Then again, who hears much about Irving Wallace or even John Dos Passos these days?

 

Among fiction writers who hold the all time record of appearing on the New York Times bestseller list, Taylor Caldwell is in position number five (Tom Clancy is ninth; Dr. Seuss logs in at 17). At one point, Fawcett Publishing House had 25 million paperback copies of 25 of her titles in print, including two that were serialized for television, “Captains and the Kings” and “Testimony of Two Men” (4.5 million and 2.7 million copies respectively).

Peter Gemma

Testimony of Two Men - Doubleday, 1968

Some time ago, Taylor Caldwell contended ""Critics don't like me any better than they do Kay Winsor, and it is a mystery to me. We are really so lovable, especially me."" Lovably, in a new spirit of critic-author ecumenicism, we weighed Testimony (3(apple) pounds--without hard covers) and did not find it wanting. Indeed the book runneth over. With uplift--from A for Matthew Arnold to Z for Zarathustra. With sex too--that is acceptable sex.

Kirkus Review

A Pillar of Iron

One is would be haunted by her ""smiles and the touch of her leaf-like hand"" all through the years even after his loveless marriage to the competent Terentia. Cicero's career, as rising young lawyer, politician, orator; his friendship (""I have loved you as a younger brother"") with Caesar even though he has many reasons to mistrust him, later to oppose him; his final confrontation with Catalina and Catalina's death after a clashing armed assault; Caesar's assassination, then his own, proceed relentlessly.

Kirkus Review

The Devil's Advocate

State control in the hands of conscienceless, Godless arbiters and robot like henchmen -- such is the United States of America, known as The Democracy, in 1970. And a horrible picture it is, carrying little conviction save -- perhaps -- to those prophets of supreme disaster who cry havoc consistently.

Kirkus Review

© 2016 by Descendants of Taylor Caldwell LLC