Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



In association with Amazon.it - Italia

the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



James M. Cain

general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Galatea

Title: Galatea
Author: James M. Cain
Genre: Novel
Written: 1953
Length: 242 pages
Availability: Galatea - US
Galatea - UK
Galatea - Canada
Galatée - France
Im Dunkel jener Nacht - Deutschland
Galatea - Italia
Galatea - España

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B- : intriguing bits, but very uneven

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Galatea is narrated by twenty-six year old Duke Webster, hailing from Nevada but now in Maryland, where he got himself in a spot of trouble, spending a night -- but only a night -- in jail, which is still enough to mark him.

     "I was detained one night."
     "Jail's jail."
       It wasn't without effect, either:
I spent a night there, and if you ever looked at the moon shining at you through bars, it puts a scar on your soul.
       There's more to it too. It turns out the police didn't really put him in the system; instead, they had him sign a confession and offered him, in: "a cockeyed probation deal", a way to redeem himself -- which turns out, more or less, becoming an indentured laborer on Val Valenty's farm property. Duke needs to get the confession to ever get out of this mess, but it's a while before he even begins worrying about that.
       Duke had had a go at being a professional fighter back home, but he didn't have the proper skill set. At loose ends after heading east, and apparently feeling guilty about what he had done, he seems to take to his job, keeping busy, toiling away.
       The woman of the house, Holly Valenty, proves to be a large distraction -- though initially not for the reasons that one might expect in a Cain novel. Holly is close to morbidly obese, and though she isn't even thirty yet (and doesn't expect to reach that age), Duke: "had supposed her middle-aged, maybe fifty or more". And when they're together: "whatever we said always led back to the fat".
       There are benefits to being on a farm with a woman who likes to eat, as Duke certainly gets well-fed -- though it is a mixed blessing:
It was the best food for taste I ever ate in my life, and the worst for health I could even dream of.
       As it turns out, Duke did find a hidden talent while he tried to break into the fighting game: he knew all the tricks and incentives to help boxers make weight (lose enough to box in a weight-category where they more likely to be successful). And, yes, eventually Holly agrees to get with the programme. Three guesses as to the result .....        Yes, surprising only to Duke:
The unexpected part, to me, was she'd lost still more weight, so it swept over me, as she swayed around in front of him, that inside that blubber, once I'd melted it off, was a shape to set you nuts.
       These changes, and what might be behind them, don't much please boss and husband Mr.Val -- and he's the one with Duke's fate, in the form of a signed confession, in his hands.
       Naturally, the different desires -- including those elemental ones now stirring between Duke and Holly -- come to a boil and one grand show-down. It's not as crisp and clean and twisted as in most of his novels, but there is some vintage Cain here:
We all get what we pray for. The trouble is, we get it all.
       Galatea is a bit of a mess, and choppy in its progressions and jumps. Some of the menace is underdeveloped, and most of it could be more cleanly presented. And the conclusion feels more than a bit forced, show-down and resolution and all. But Cain does some bits really nicely, and he plays with voice and language pretty well here.
       All in all, Galatea feels like a novel he was experimenting around with, and couldn't get just right. It's middling stuff, through and through -- though with a few bright spots -- but not entirely without appeal.

- M.A.Orthofer, 14 March 2017

- Return to top of the page -


Galatea: Reviews: James M. Cain: Other books by James Cain under review: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       American author James Mallahan Cain (1892-1977) was, among other things, managing editor of The New Yorker and a screenwriter. He published his first novel when he was forty-two, and achieved great success with several hard-boiled classics.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2017 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links