House in Upland - Erskine Caldwell

A ridiculously overheated melodrama set on a decaying southern plantation, featuring a prideful, spoiled young "aristocrat", his mother who encourages him in those traits, his neglected, weepy wife, their downtrodden servants and field hands, a "modern" cousin, an earthy lower-class tenant... and more tumultuous passions, angry outbursts, tearful scenes, conflicts, financial troubles, and predictable plot developments than you'd wish to count. I guess it's a "classic" because it's so typical of a genre of best-sellers that continues to this day. Even the prose has the flat, descriptive tone of the sort of popular writing that has to tell you exactly what the characters are thinking: "It was an anguish she did not know how to endure... what was more important right then than anything else was to find out whether her suspicions were true or false..." etc. This being published in 1946, there's no actual sex, like there undoubtedly would be now -- we have to content ourselves with our heroine being carried, trembling, in the brawny arms of her neighbor, etc. There's literally a bodice ripped at one point, although with much more anger than lust. (The other difference is that such a story nowadays would be very unlikely to be frank about the racial relations on the plantation. There's no glossing over attitudes or censorship of language. The author obviously thinks that the black characters, in the words of the modern cousin, "have certain fundamental rights", but his depiction of them is just as clichéed as everything else here, and necessarily racist.) The theme of the decline and fall of old power in the south is a familiar one too. If I "recognize" things in this book constantly, it's most likely because others imitated it, rather than it being an imitation.