On Sunday, October 24th, 2021, the 125th anniversary edition of the New York Times Book Review came out. Jonathan pulled it out last night to browse through.
“Listen to this!” he exclaimed, citing reviews from early 20th century editions through the present, some of the most renowned authors of all time – Jean-Paul Sartre, Willa Cather, Toni Morrison, Arthur Conan Doyle – sometimes reviewed by even more renowned authors – Vladimir Nabokov, James Baldwin, Stephen King. Then he turned to the first ever bestseller list of 1942, and his face blossomed into astonished delight.
“Guess who was the first ever #1 bestselling author? In 1942.”
I racked my brain. Margaret Mitchell for Gone With the Wind ? Daphne Du Maurier for Rebecca ? Pearl Buck for The Good Earth ? I asked for a hint. He grinned.
“You know the author better than anyone else in the entire world,” he said.
“Oh my gosh! Rachel Field? And Now Tomorrow! I never knew that!”
Rachel finished And Now Tomorrow under great duress in December of 1941. She submitted the manuscript on December 15th and died exactly three months later on March 15th. In February, Rachel saw the story released in its first, serial form in McCalls Magazine. Later Macmillan published the book. Rachel would never know that her fourth novel sold to Paramount Pictures for $75,000 that May, or that it was the 1st fiction bestseller on the New York Times inaugural list. It I knew most of this history, but the New York Times bit was new information for me this week. I also discovered that And Now Tomorrow was the fourth biggest-selling novel in 1942.
ALSO - in my browsings today I found the book in Kindle version, on sale for 99 cents! I haven't yet uploaded it, so I can't guarantee this is legit, but I am thrilled to learn that someone has produced a digital version.
Rachel continues to surprise and delight her devoted biographer. I guess she isn’t through with me yet.
Robin Clifford Wood is a writer and writing teacher. She lives in central Maine with her husband and dogs, loves to be outdoors, and enjoys ever-expanding horizons through her grown children and their multi-species families.