Thursday, August 11, 2016

Castle Ugly: A Love Story by Mary Ellin Barrett

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Title: Castle Ugly

Author: Mary Ellin Barrett

Storyline: By all accounts this melodrama, Castle Ugly, is a good read.  Writers are advised to write what they know, and it seems, Mary Ellin Barrett did.  This is a tale of high strung mid-century artistic people vacationing on the tip of Long Island with their coterie of jaded and successful friends.  Mary Ellin tells it from the standpoint of a now adult family member, living in Europe,  and looking back on her childhood view of the events.  The novel probably doesn’t fall far from the author’s real experience as the daughter of a world-famous American composer, Irving Berlin.  The characters are all smart, bored, given to winding each other up, and getting involved with the wrong person.  But with all their smarts, they never seem to learn from their experience, even after karma catches up with them in the form of an epic hurricane!  The book jacket says this story is somewhere between the world of F. Scott Fitzgerald and la dolce vita depicted in that era’s art house cinema.  Want to know what it was like to be too smart, too talented, and too successful with too much time on your hands?  Read on!

Copyright: 1966; Book Club Edition

Publisher:  E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc.

Format:  Cloth-bound hardcover

Page Count:  218

Author Biography:

Barrett, Mary Ellin (b.1926–) is the eldest daughter of famed American composer Irving Berlin (who can forget “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”?), and Ellin Mackay.  Despite her mom and dad having an unusual for the time May-December marriage blending their Jewish and Irish backgrounds, she had a typical well-to-do upbringing New York City where she attended The Brearly prepschool on the upper east side, and then went on to Barnard College.  Her mother, Ellin, was a novelist, short story writer, and contributor to the New Yorker Magazine.  Following in her mother’s footsteps by becoming a writer, Mary Ellin published three novels, a memoir of life with her father, and was the book critic for Helen Gurley Brown’s racy Cosmopolitan women’s magazine. (Thank you to Wiki, The New York Times, and IMDb)

Works Include: Castle Ugly (1966), An Accident of Love (1973), American Beauty (1981), and  Irving Berlin: a Daughter's Memoir (1995).