"Angels on Toast" by Dawn Powell
This book came up passing in some article I read online. I don't remember the thrust of the article, but the author said somewhere that Angels on Toast was one of the best stories about a bad marriage, like ever. So I requested it through my local library.
I got it about a week later. If I can use the speed with which a book reaches my branch through the TPL system to judge its popularity, I would have to say this book is not popular. But it's a spurious statistic, I know. The introduction by Gore Vidal discusses how popular Dawn Powell should have been, but I can sort of see why she's not. Her characters are middle class, and they are mocked mercilessly. People might see themselves a little too much in these characters -- their hopes and dreams and why they fail. It's like nagging, maybe, to read about why we fail.
I had a hard time remembering which of the two main male characters, Lou and Jay, was which. I didn't have a similar problem with the female characters. The two men seemed to be pretty much the same, whereas the women that were around them were much more distinct. I read about 35 pages, and then put the book down for maybe 10 days before going back to it, because it was making me uncomfortable. I don't like books that make me uncomfortable, especially when I know I can't flip to the back and read the ending and make sure it's all going to come out okay, so I can return to my place and enjoy the ride.
The book was published in 1940, and there are lots of allusions to the troubles in Europe at the time. One of the characters is a woman who claims to be from Russia and can't go back because she's a jew or something, and yet can't stay in America unless someone marries her. Also, I gather people drank rather a lot back then.
I quite liked the ending because it was a surprise. I liked the use of time. I never really got what the title meant, even though I googled it. That annoyed me.