For All Your Life is a natural choice for the first day of fall.
There was an outsize gold-and-crimson maple leaf of weatherproof metal attached to the trunk of a gigantic oak. Its tip pointed east. TO THE MOUNTAIN, it directed.
“Motorists will begin to flock to see the foliage tomorrow. The different shapes and colors of these metal leaves are guides to locate the varieties. Crimson indicates sweet gum and red maple. Purple: mountain ash. Clear yellow: American beech and willow.”
Out of the blue, Anne Kendrick inherits a large estate in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I don’t usually connect Emilie Loring with New Hampshire, but she spent many summers in Amherst when she was a girl, and her brother summered there regularly.
Anne’s new estate, Mountain Lodge, is quite the place! The rambling, stone house has gardens, a tennis court, and a landing field, not to mention its own lake and trout stream. Its entertainment suite includes a ballroom (because everyone needs one of those), powder and coat rooms, and an inviting dining room. The game room is her least favorite, decorated with antlers and guns, but it is balanced by a marble entry hall with a floor-to-ceiling aquarium.
“I can’t wait to give a party to see lovely girls and women sweeping up and down these marble stairs.”
I’m not familiar with the White Mountains, so let me know if Mountain Lodge is based on a real place. It’s within a mile of a forested, granite mountain, close to an old mill town, and within sight of the Presidential Range, “far off on the horizon.”
Anne’s romantic interest is Griffith Trent, a congressman who secretly investigated her for two years. There are problems, of course. There is another claimant to the estate, funds–and a parrot–are missing, and Ned Crane, who jilted Griff’s sister, tries first to marry Anne and then the Trents’ seventeen-year-old niece.
Familiar components of Emilie Loring’s preceding novels are present in For All Your Life. There are vibrant descriptions:
Across the room a log fire leaped and blazed. It threw patterns on the light mahogany walls and set figures dancing in shadowy corners.
The walls were of varicolored marble, with many wavy streaks of soft pink which gave off a rosy light. An exquisitely wrought iron balustrade, black as the teakwood, at one side of broad marble stairs, mounted to the gallery.
There are unique descriptors–a “raffish” dark-green convertible and a dining table that becomes “the cynosure of many eyes.” I’m always grateful for these; they have expanded my vocabulary considerably.
A Lowestoft cup and saucer make an appearance, as do Cocker Spaniels named “Rough” and “Ready,” and a reprobate parrot called “Old Soc.” Anne’s father was an actor who gave sage advice:
“Anne, here’s a rule for all your life,” he had begun gravely. “When you have decided on a course of action, go to it. No matter if discouragement blocks the way, keep swinging. Each swing will inch you forward though it may seem to you that you haven’t moved. Then, before you know it, you will have achieved your goal.”
When a character is introduced, Emilie Loring provides an instant impression:
“The grim-faced man and woman are pushovers for the couple in the famous painting, ‘American Gothic.’ They are Amos and Harriet Dodge, butler and housekeeper respectively, who are fixtures here, a part of your bequest. Note the man’s batlike ears. When they twitch, look out!”
I love the combined assumptions and education about fashions in her novels. Clarissa Trent invites Anne to a club event and suggests,
“Not too formal. The same sort of thing you’d wear to the theater if you planned to dance later.”
Are you picturing an outfit? Here is Anne’s solution:
Her white chiffon frock with its deep V neckline and a silver lamé jacket were perfect for the occasion, and simple pearl earrings were a perfect accessory to the costume.
There is one fashion surprise when Anne appears in black velvet slacks and a long-sleeved, white Italian silk shirt. It’s chic, to be sure, but Emilie’s characters don’t often appear in slacks away from the beach. I credit her for moving with the times.
Loring novels have themes, and this one arose from a struggle between attraction and distrust.
She had met him four weeks before and had been fascinated by his charm and his apparent devotion to her. Then one morning she had been awakened by her own voice asking, “For all your life?”
Her characters have flaws, of course, but in the main, they are the kinds of people you would like to know.
Griff was reminded of Anne Kendrick, with her simple, uncalculated manners, her warm unstudied graciousness, her gaiety of spirit, the eyes that met his squarely and honestly. Anne was genuine and real.
It’s easy to identify with their earnestness:
“You know, Joe,” Anne went on, “since my arrival I’ve gone about in a daze, trying to realize what has happened to me. I must take hold of life with both hands and all my intelligence.”
Another reliable characteristic of an Emilie Loring novel is the inclusion of historical and autobiographical details. In For All Your Life, it comes when Joe Bennet signs up for the Marines.
“How do they feel about your enlistment in the Marines, Joe?”
“How do any parents feel? They wouldn’t have me not go, but I figure they have let-down moments. I’m their one and only … I’ll be back on leave. And there is a U.S. mail delivered at Parris Island. Keep me posted.”
Emilie Loring’s eldest grandchild, Victor Joseph Loring, enlisted with the Marines on January 15, 1951 and was sent to Parris Island for training. This date is important, because Joe’s enlistment appears on page 54 of my paperback copy, about one-third of the way through the book.
Emilie Loring’s previous book, To Love and to Honor, came out in November, 1950, when she was already at work on For All Your Life. She wrote to her fans in what became its dedication:
From North to South, from East to West they came: the letters you wrote me when To Love and to Honor was published. Wonderful letters, full of commendation, affection and good wishes. I would have liked to answer each one but it would have taken weeks, and you all asked for another story. I couldn’t do both, so I am dedicating For All Your Life to each one of you in appreciation of your generous and warm-hearted encouragement.
As it happened, she didn’t get to finish For All Your Life. Just ten pages beyond the reference to Joe Bennet’s enlistment, Chapter XII ends. This may be her last, contiguous text:
“Then, why,” Joe asked, bewildered, “did she come to you with that story?”
“That,” Griff told him firmly, “is what we have got to find out.”
Emilie Loring died on March 13, 1951. I really like knowing that she was still writing as late as January. She was ill a full year, but it wasn’t enough to stop her until the last weeks.
“I must take hold of life with both hands and all my intelligence.”
When Chapter XIII begins, there is a new author, Elinore Denniston, and she is no Emilie Loring. To be fair, she can’t have had much opportunity to read and know Emilie’s work before attempting to mimic it, but as I wrote last week, only Emilie Loring could write an Emilie Loring book. “No formula could produce these stories.”
But seriously, where were the editors? First came a flurry of “Anyhows:”
Anyhow, as she had told Joe Bennet, she could not cry on Cosgrove’s shoulder. p. 70
“Anyhow, I have been hearing a lot about you, Miss Kendrick.” p. 71
–anyhow, Anne walked home through the woods and someone followed her. p. 75
“Anyhow, Anne wouldn’t marry me–or anyone–on those conditions.” p. 76
“Anyhow, I want to know what Minna is really after.” p. 76
And Freshman-English sorts of errors:
“Or Dodge, who also heard that
was shakingout a gray silk dress before addingit to the toppling pile on her bed.
gotover him but she still hasn’t fully recovered from the hurt.
And, inexplicably, Denniston ignored facts established in the first part of the story.
Cosgrove, early in the story:
“I’ll let you in on a secret, Miss Kendrick. Trent was a great favorite with Mrs. Williams and she tried to make him promise to marry you… I was present when she made the proposition”
“Excuse me if I’ve put my foot in it. I took for granted Griffith Trent was the man Mrs. Williams intended you to marry… “
“Where did you hear about that?” Anne asked.
“I don’t remember. It seems to be a general rumor.”
I think of how carefully Emilie crafted her stories, of her assertion that she never left a page until she made it as good as it could be. But now she had a ghostwriter, and Elinore Denniston’s errors, awkwardness, attitudes, and tone would now be attributed to Emilie Loring.
Why must there be such people to dim the radiance of the world?
Next day it seemed to Anne that nothing could dim the radiance of the world. Glorious was the word for that day. The sky was an inverted bowl of lapis lazuli.
“I’m the career gal who only a few weeks ago was going to do big things in television. Remember? And now all I hear is a little voice saying a woman’s best career is marriage.”
Anne smiled in the dark. Men never knew very much about women.
The bruise, as the maid had said, was all the colors of the rainbow and not one of them was becoming to him.
Griff looked down at her. “What’s wrong, Sober-face?”
“Thinking about Joe and the war.”
“Forget it for now.”
Emilie’s trademark russet and gold chrysanthemums even lost their color:
With bowls of massed autumn flowers on the table, desk and mantel, the room was warm and bright.
For All Your Life begins so well. By the end, it’s just winter.
It’s not fun to pick apart someone’s work and find fault. But this book marks a turning point in Emilie Loring’s reputation and legacy. None of the books after To Love and to Honor is fully hers, and yet her name is on them all, and it is her reputation, not her ghostwriters’, that bears the burden.
There are enjoyable stories among the twenty ghostwritten “Emilie Loring” books, some that I like very much. There are portions of Emilie’s writing to be found within them. But the real Emilie Loring is best found in the thirty books she wrote herself.
What’s the “up” side here? For me, it’s the conviction that Emilie Loring really was that good. Her character, personality, and history made her stories uniquely hers, and years of dedication to her craft allowed her to write books that we could love for all our lives.
“Now I am faring forth on a vacation. When I return, just watch my yellow pencils smoke.”