Sunday, October 17, 2010

Belva Plain Dead at 95

Belva Plain, whose novels sold millions of copies in the latter part of the 21st century, has died at home in Short Hills, New Jersey on October 12th. She was 95 years old.

Plain’s first novel, Evergreen, was published in 1978, spent over 60 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and went on to be made into a mini-series starring Joan Allen and Armand Assante in 1985. Plain’s novels, which often dealt with young Jewish heroines overcoming unbelievable odds, were often dismissed by reviewers. From Plain’s New York Times obituary:
The critics were often unimpressed by Ms. Plain’s novels. In a review of “Harvest” in 1990, Webster Schott described Ms. Plain’s books as “easy, consoling works of generous spirit, fat with plot and sentiment, thin in nearly every other way and almost invisible in character development.”

Such opinions did not stop millions from enjoying her books; readers’ comments on Amazon often speak of them as “big, cozy reads.” That would have pleased Ms. Plain, who saw nothing wrong with being entertaining. “Even the real geniuses, like Dostoyevsky, entertained,” she said.
The Times said Plain was obsessed with telling a different kind of story:
“I got sick of reading the same old story, told by Jewish writers, of the same old stereotypes — the possessive mothers, the worn-out fathers, all the rest of the neurotic rebellious unhappy self-hating tribe,” she said. “I wanted to write a different novel about Jews — and a truer one.”
Plain was best known for the Werner Family Saga, which included four novels: Evergreen (1978); Golden Cup (1986); Tapestry (1988) and Harvest (1990). But there were other 18 other novels, as well, some of them huge sellers, most recently 2004’s Crossroads.



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