A Peculiar Treasure

(1939)
A Peculiar Treasure (1939)

From the 1920s to the 1960s, Edna Ferber was one of America’s most popular writers, turning out a string of best-selling novels, such as So Big (Pulitzer Prize winner), Show Boat, Come and Get It, and Giant, many of which became equally successful plays and films. Ferber herself also wrote successful plays (Stage Door, The Royal Family) with theatrical legend George S. Kauffmann, and was peripheral member of the famed Algonquin Round Table of notable wits.

All of this is quite interesting enough, but what makes Ferber’s memoir of particular appeal is that she grew up in Appleton. In the book, Ferber offers a glowing account of life in turn-of-the-century Appleton, from working in her father’s dry goods store on College Avenue to her first paying job ($3.00 a week) as a reporter for the Appleton Daily Crescent (later the Post-Crescent), which provided the opportunity to interview another former Appletonian, the great escape artist Harry Houdini.

A Peculiar Treasure is an appealing account of another era, and of a talented, tough, and sometimes prickly woman who rose from a small Midwestern town to international success.

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