Untold Millions by Laura Z. Hobson (1982)

Untold Millions by Laura Z. Hobson

Untold Millions by Laura Z. Hobson was this distinguished (and fairly forgotten) author’s twelfth book. Published in 1982, it was the last novel by Hobson, remembered foremost for  Gentleman’s Agreement. It came out nearly four decades earlier, and made a splash both in book form in as an award-winning film the following year (1947). 

Untold Millions was described by its publisher as “a warm, touching and beautiful love story, is unlike any other novel she has written, and proves once again that Laura Z. Hobson is a master storyteller, a novelist of fine perceptions and great flair.”


A brief plot summary

From the 1982 Harper & Row edition of Untold Millions: This novel by Laura Z. Hobson takes place in New York, the 1920s: Jossie Stone, just starting out in advertising, and Rick Baird, a married man with a family in Paris, a would-be novelist, a man with constant money troubles, falls madly in love and wildly into debt.

Rick’s gusto for living beyond his means is perfectly matched by Jossie’s ability to manage extra work, but what a force money is in their life — the earning of it, the struggle for more, and the fear of not having enough.

As Jossie fights to make her life with Rick work — supporting him as he writes, finding sudden cash for the inevitable emergencies he manages to create, developing her freelance work, and finally, beginning a career in journalism — she learns how much she’s able to do, how resourceful and talented she truly is. Insight, self-knowledge, above all, that elusive thing, maturity.

Money and success can’t buy it, nobody can give it to you. But if you reach it, it’s worth everything — untold millions, and forever.

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First papers by Laura Z. Hobson

More fiction by Laura Z. Hobson on this site
First Papers
The Tenth Month
Consenting Adult. 
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A 1982 Review of  Untold Millions

From Original review by Bee Hirschl in The Pittsburgh Press, March 28, 1982:  At age 81, Laura Z. Hobson, author of Gentleman’s Agreement, has produced a novel as polished as it is moving, bearing the same imprint of quality which marked her earlier works.

In fact, Jossie Stone, the endearing central character of this book, unwittingly describes its special appeal in one of her numerous journal entries:

“It’s so rarely that anything written today really touches my heart, with the sharply indrawn breath and the rush of tears …”

That’s how Jossie looks at life in the 1920s. She is on her own in New York at twenty-three, a copywriter in a small advertising agency and a diligent repayer, in bits and pieces, of her Cornell student loan.

But the core of Jossie’s world is one Rick Bair — handsome, lazy, married and irresistible. Copy chief of Jossie’s agency, he sighs a lot about needing time to write what he wants to write, and broods over the rapid ascent of college pal F. Scott Fitzgerald’s star in the literary heavens.

Jossie has not tumbled into, but has willingly allowed herself to become enfolded in that sweet warmth of first obsessive love. She moves in with Rick, offers solace when his writing goes flat, even agonizes with him over the fate of his marriage to Jean, some years older than he, who is off in Paris exploring her artistic talent.

Jossie is dazzled by Rick, but not blind. The day comes when she can no longer ignore the drawerful of his unpaid bills for rent, clothes, wines, and all the other accessories of the good life going bad. That’s the main character this book — money, and how it can manipulate values, trigger concessions, and hasten or delay coming of age.

Still seeking an out for Rick — that his habits would improve if he could spend all of his time on his book — Jossie urges him to quit his job at the agency. She takes on freelance assignments, begins to pay off his obligations and even assumes his monthly payments to Jean, who is appalled at the indolence of her boy-man husband.

And while Jossie is enduring a back-alley abortion, as Rick comforts his ailing wife in Paris, she continues to worry about him. How bad he would feel about this baby, she mourns.

But the inevitable happens. There’s a life to be lived and goals to be reached: “Wasn’t it your own responsibility,”  Jossie muses, “to set decent limits to human arrangements, no matter how much you loved somebody?”

Jossie Stone is the stuff true, honest-to-gosh heroines are made of, with a kind of “Kitty Foyle” spirit and common sense —and vulnerability — worth “Untold Millions” herself. And should Jossie’s story bear more than a passing resemblance to one Laura Z. Hobson’s of some years back, it would come as no big surprise.

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Laura Z. Hobson

Laura Z. Hobson
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