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Mildred Pierce: The novel

Updated on June 17, 2015
Mildred Pierce - thenovel
Mildred Pierce - thenovel | Source

A classic novel

You may have seen the old movie Mildred Pierce starring Joan Crawford.

It was made back in 1945 and is regarded as a classic. But what you may not know is that it was based on a novel by James M. Cann, written a few years before the film made its appearance.

If you haven't read the book,I highly recommend it.

Is the book better?

It's always difficult to compare a book and a film. Often, it's better to see the movie version first - I find that seeing one of my favourite books on the screen is usually a disappointment. This makes sense because a novel has to be cut considerably to fit into the allotted time.

Directors, producers and financiers have to selectively prune a novel not only to be the right length, but also to appeal to the general public.

A study in relationships

That makes it sound a little boring doesn't it? But it's far from that. Yes, there are man / woman relationships but Mildred Pierce is unusual in that it features the remarkably chilling relationship between Mildred, a hard-working woman who creates her own successful business, and teenage-then-young-woman daughter Veda, who is thoroughly spoiled and snooty. She drips honey one moment and venom the next.

When your daughter romances your husband

Mildred becomes divorced and has several relationships but ultimately marries Monty, who sponges off her as she is now a wealthy businesswoman. If you've seen the film, you'll know that Mildred discovers her husband and her now grown-up daughter is a loving embrace. In the book, this is somewhat more graphic as the couple are discovered in bed.

Read what Hollywood wasn't allowed to film

Hollywood movies were highly censored in 1945 when Mildred Pierce was made.

That's not to say that the book is terribly raunchy, but it goes into much greater depth.

Despite her daughter's loathsome character,Mildred adores her.

Her every move is motivated by pleasing Veda and making her life better.

Will this be Mildred's downfall?

If you haven't seen the original film,it's a must for every collection

Mildred Pierce (Keepcase)
Mildred Pierce (Keepcase)

Although it is only faithful to the book in the characters and the general outline, this is a must for your home movie collection.

Many experts agree that is is one of the best of the genre, especially because of its superb photography and cinematography.


Here's a scene from the film that has been very much shortened from the book version but does include the speech that Veda gives about how much she hates her mother. Veda has just pretended to be pregnant in order to get money from the 'father'.

This is typical of Veda's calculating mind. She hates the fact that her mother works for a living. She wants to escape from their 'poverty'.

Did Mildred Pierce create a monster?

After her husband had left her,Mildred Pierce had only one objective. That was to make enough money to provide for her two daughters.She wanted them to have the very best of everything.

She saw no reason why they should be deprived.

Although the film was made in the nineteen forties, the novel was actually set in the Depression of the nineteen thirties. Mildred started working as a waitress. She is constantly worried that her daughter will find out. Veda thinks highly of their social status in a middle class suburb and having a mother who waits on tables for a living wouldn't fit in with her social ambitions, young though she is.

As Mildred's career improves and she creates her own businesses, anything that Veda wants is fine by her. She doesn't hold back when it comes to her increasingly pretentious daughter.

Anything Veda wants, Veda gets.

The problem is that every time she gets something, she wants more. Even when her mother is running her own business and money is no longer as tight, Veda is still ashamed of her.

Having a mother 'in trade' is not what this young lady aspires to. She sets her sights higher and higher.

Her ruses just get more and more ambitious. Sleeping with her stepfather, Mildred's husband isn't even her last scheme... there are still more to come.


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    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @MJ Martin: If you love the classics, this should be on your list - it's terrific.

    • MJ Martin profile image

      MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose 

      5 years ago from Washington State

      Interesting review, I love old classic movies, don't remember this one, intriguing.

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @sousababy: Thank you Rose - I highly recommend the book and the original film, although they are quite different in many ways. Veda, the daughter, is a dreadful daughter and yet Mildred loves her to distraction. It makes us question our own feelings about our children and about the relationships we have / had with our own mothers. Fascinating.Mildred's desire to do the very best for her children (there is another daughter who dies) is, at first, a normal maternal instinct but becomes an obsession.

    • sousababy profile image


      5 years ago

      I never saw, nor read this book. It sounds like it certainly broke new ground (for that era) what with the daughter's controversial relationship and all. Thank you for such a thorough and intriguing review.

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Erin Mellor: I haven't seen the mini series - I usually get impatient with remakes when I love the original. But as it was a mini series, it probably went into more depth than the old film. I'll put it on my list!

    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 

      5 years ago from Europe

      I saw a mini series of this a year or two ago, it was fabulous. I should read it.


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