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Imprints Literary Supplement

The Best Books You've Never Read

Now in November

By Richard Gorelick | Posted 10/13/1999

Now in November

Josephine W. Johnson

Reprinted by the Feminist Press in 1991

Now in November, Josephine Johnson's first novel, won her the Pulitzer Prize in 1935, when she was 24; she remains the youngest author to receive the award. Praised upon its publication for its raw psychological insight and masterly control of language, Now in November, like most of Johnson's subsequent works, has all but vanished from the landscape. Pulitzer-winning novels tended, in the award's first decades, to present either one citified family coping with a dizzyingly changing American social scene or else one countrified family coping with awesome natural disasters. Now in November falls into the latter category, giving us Haldmarnes (bitter dad; enabling mom; three daughters, the oldest of whom is crazy), one of the unhappiest farm families scrabbling on one of America's most useless, depressingly isolated farms. What makes their decade-long misery (drought, fire, loneliness, insanity, suicide) so absorbing is the book's narrator, the family's middle daughter. This girl is self-effacing to the point of near-obliteration (her name isn't mentioned until page 88), but she is a precise but wary observer of the minute changes in the apparatus of the farm and the defeated people living on it.

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