I've been re-reading Willa Cather's brilliant novella My Mortal Enemy. Set in New York it is the story of Myra Henshawe, a woman who has beauty and wealth in her youth but throws away her inheritance to marry the man she loves. She then becomes dissatisfied and envious when she cannot maintain her standard of living and by the time she is in her mid-forties she has become bitter and he is fond of the company of other women. The story is relayed by Myra's young niece who both admires and dislikes her aunt. Myra's conflict between her desire for worldly goods and her passion for art and literature and music is what makes her a sympathetic character.
I spotted Elaine Showalter's A Jury of Her Peers - American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx in the library and borrowed it to find out some information about Betty Smith. Sadly Smith merits less than a line in this account of American literature while of course there are chapters devoted to Willa Cather. Cather is a more literary writer, but it seems odd that the writer of a novel beloved by so many readers does not merit a few pages in the history of American women's writing
Thanks to your recommendations I've ordered Joy in the Morning - the Betty Smith revival starts here!