Book Review of The Darling Dahlias and The Unlucky Clover By Susan Wittig Albert

Ready for a trip? Order a copy of   The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover         Travel back in time to the days of the depression when times were tough but never boring.

I’m so thankful that Susan Wittig Albert decided to write another “Darling Dahlias” mystery, in response to reader requests. I really would love to see a couple more in the series.

Set in the South – “Darling” Alabama during the Depression of the 1930’s, (1934, this edition) the series serves as a historical record of the culture of the time, in addition to being a light and entertaining collection of mystery stories.

This particular story includes details of automobiles of the era, and the business of moonshine making. Moonshine manufacturing was just one of the enterprises people pursued in an attempt to make a living in lean times. In 1934, prohibition had been repealed, but moonshining was still illegal. The author includes a few details of the differnces in moonshine making in various areas of the country. In the deep south, it seems, the shine was shipped fresh. Packed as soon as it was prepared, makers would load it in a fast car then rush it off to the nearest big city for sale.

The New Deal, FDR’s plan to improve the lives of the public, was coming to fruition in this story. The CCC Camp, just outside of the town of Darling, provided jobs for some. The Writer’s Program was beginning to take shape.

Liz Lacy is my favorite character, of course, since she’s an aspiring writer. Liz’s day job, one she enjoys, is the position of secretary to the town’s lawyer, Mr. Mosely. Liz learns of The Writer’s Program – put together to offer writers, educators, and artists an ability to make a living at a time when these types of jobs were hard to come by. Liz’s employer didn’t know how he could function without Liz, but his income was as uncertain as any, so he wasn’t sure he could keep her on. The program thus holds her interest.

Liz faces other dilemmas concerning Grady Alexander, her former beau who took up with a teenager he had to marry as she became pregnant. His young wife suffered a premature death due to cancer. He is now pursuing Liz, realizing not only that he still loves her, but that he needs a wife to assist him in raising Grady junior. She loves living on her own in her cute little cottage, and writing in her spare time, so is unsure what the right thing to do may be.

Amid the difficulties of the lives of all the Dahlia ladies, a suspicious death occurs. A man whose wife is about to divorce him, meets his demise in an accident which must be investigated. His death could also affect the fate of some of the town’s businesses. Additionally, the man was a member of the Lucky Four Clovers Barbershop Quartet. The group was, at the time, preparing for a major competition.

My mother told many tales of happenings during depression days. The Darling Dahlia series takes me back to the times of her stories. Though there was nearly no spending money, people seemed to have a better sense of style and culture then than today. They enjoyed celebrations with friends and neighbors. More people raised their own chickens and had gardens, so food was available to many. (Some great pie recipes are included in this title. Ones you won’t easily find in today’s cookbooks.)

For all the difficulties, and the war that followed, overall the country came out of the struggle stronger, more prosperous. Business and industry leaders shared the wealth with workers when times improved. We can hope that a similar outcome will follow today’s culture changes that seem to leave so many behind.

Once again I highly recommend  The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover, and hope that Susan Wittig Albert will create a couple more works in the series, taking us at least up to the beginning of “The War”.

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Keep Calm and Read On

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