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Back Street

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  69 ratings  ·  13 reviews
Ray Schimdt was a young woman of style, grace and feminine charm. At eighteen, she met Water Saxel and knew with finality that she could never deny him.

If she had kept their appointment that fateful Sunday morning, would it have changed anything? Would she have become his wife in spite of their different backgrounds? Or had she always been destined to be only his mistress?
Mass Market Paperback, 441 pages
Published 1961 by Pocket Books (first published 1931)
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3.64  · 
Rating details
 ·  69 ratings  ·  13 reviews

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Martie Nees Record
Aug 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
The only thing that this stellar novel has in common with the old Susan Hayward movie was the title and that the main character was a mistress to a married man. I remember the movie being a sappy tearjerker. The novel is well written with an incredible view of the world in old NYC, especially for women. I felt like I was back in 1930 when the book was published. So good!
Oct 12, 2011 rated it liked it
This is an interesting book about a woman who is the mistress of a Jewish man. It is filled with odd old expressions. More on
Mar 01, 2012 rated it liked it
A train-wreck of a book. I'm actually surprised to see a fair amount of recent readers who are enthusiastic about it, because I would think its premise, about a woman who puts her entire life on-hold to be available as mistress to a married man, would be unacceptable today, especially a married man who'd be recognized today as a control freak (his favorite word is "I").

F. Scott Fitzgerald considered Fannie Hurst to be one of several authors "not producing among 'em one story or novel that will l
Apr 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I have yet to see the film, I am not sure if I want to (I do). The book is a fab. melodrama set in the years of America and Europe 1849-1930 a "Fly Girl" Ray Schmidt falls for a Jewish Man she meets at a rail station. Impossible for any chance to marry; Ray become his lover, a lifetime follows these two. His Jewish wife and children, his success. All this time, Ray is kept, with no income other than the dollars he leaves in the Bisque figurine on the table. His sudden death leaves Ray elderly an ...more
Nov 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Few of the films made from Miss Hurst's novels are really true to them, especially the later ones like 1961's Back Street, but the source novel is quite captivating. Perhaps it's because I'm from Cincinnati and that 's where the story is set (at first, anyway), but the reader is drawn into the mindset of the heroine and, despite what would now seem to be ridiculous behavior, endures endless stress and torment right along with her. A fascinating glimpse into the past, thanks to the details of the ...more
Christine Sinclair
Pot-boiler? Yes. Soap opera? Yes. But Back Street is so well-written and emotionally gripping that it rises above its genre. The main character, a Miss Ray Schmidt, makes many bad decisions in this story, yet she remains a sympathetic and human character to the end. (Warning: There is a gratuitous violent and gory scene toward the end which should have been left out, or done quite differently. Shockingly crueler than the rest of the story.) I want to see all three movie versions of it to compare ...more
By the end of this soap opera, I was fairly impressed with how the author depicted the downfall of a woman whose affair with a married wealthy banker is chronicled over the course of 500+ pages. Even though the language and tenor of the novel is dated for a post-millennial readership, the author has a very special way of extracting intricacies in personality through very specific language.

Took a long time to finish! Whew!
Nov 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Devoted, underappreciated girl abandons her life and talents to be the mistress of her true love, nearly driving herself mad....and the reader, for want of her to snap out of it! It blends the scandal of "Camille," with hints of "Now Voyager." I kept picturing Cate Blanchette in Blue Jasmine at the end, too. Cinematic, tragic, dramatic...and she has some amazing metaphors..want to read more of her work, she was a best seller and highest paid female writer of her time.. I'm intrigued..
Mar 28, 2011 rated it liked it
Interesting, surprising story of a nice, Midwestern girl who becomes a kept woman. Her lover, a respectable public figure with a wife and family, remains the one love of her life. She is depicted as a good, loyal person who tragically gives up her life to someone who doesn't appreciate her. She was a doormat, but it was still a sympathetic portrayal and very modern moral sensibilities considering this book is from 1931 and set even earlier.
Dec 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Another book that was better than the movie...much better. A fascinating study of two people in love who could not marry.
Jul 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
such a very sad life!
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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Fannie Hurst is completely forgotten today, but in the 1920s and 30s, she was one of America's most popular writers, penning stories for The Saturday Evening Post and Cosmopolitan, bestselling novels, and screen stories for Hollywood; her two most famous novels are Back Street (1931) and Imitation of Life (1933), primarily due to the fact that the former was filmed 3 times ('32, '41, '61) and the latter was filmed twice ('34, '59). According to what I read online, Hurst enjoyed critical acclaim ...more
Marion Benwell
Jan 28, 2018 rated it liked it
I found this book quite interesting, very revealing of another era. Of course, I am quite angry at Ray Schmidt for letting herself being treated like this , but I think that's what's interesting. It shows how women were seen and treated before and also how social class and ethny can influence a whole life, turn it into something miserable when it was so promising. And the most astonishing part is that she doesn't realise that she is unhappy. The end was completely heart-wrenching and shocking, i ...more
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Jul 16, 2014
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Fannie Hurst was born in Ohio, grew up in St. Louis and spent her adult life in New York City. She is the author of 17 novels and more than 250 short stories, as well as plays, screenplays, memoirs, essays and articles. Her best-remembered works are those turned into films, including: Imitation of Life, Back Street, Humoresque, The Younger Generation, and Young at Heart. She was active in a variet ...more
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“One evening in one of those Over-the-Rhine cafes which were plentiful along Vine Street of the Cincinnati of the nineties, a traveling salesman leaned across his stein of Moerlein's Extra Light and openly accused Ray Schmidt of being innocent.” 0 likes
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