The Dreaming Suburb by R.F. Delderfield

The Dreaming Suburb cover

The Dreaming Suburb by R.F. Delderfield was first published in 1958 and it’s the first in Delderfield’s ‘Avenue’ books of which there are two.

The book’s first chapter takes place in Spring 1947, but in the next one we’re back in 1919, men are coming back form the trenches and discovering that all the promises they were given by the government meant nothing. Britain isn’t a place fit for heroes, it’s a place of unemployment and poverty for most ordinary people.

The story involves the inhabitants of Manor Park Avenue, it shelters a disparate collection of characters, one of the main ones being Jim Carver who came back from the war to discover that his wife had just died giving birth to her second set of twins. Jim throws himself into trade unionism and is involved in the General Strike.

The Dreaming Suburb leads us up to the beginning of World War 2 just 20 years after the end of the war to end all wars. Jim had been a pacifist after his experiences in the trenches, but he quickly changes his feelings when Hitler begins to rampage across Europe.

The author is a straightforward storyteller, there’s nothing fancy or poetic about his writing, but his characters are so well written, he was obviously a great observer of people. There are several families involved, all very different, and the children usually turn out to be very different from their parents. The strict Methodists have unknowingly brought up manipulative and dishonest children, with Elaine being the opposite of her frigid mother and determined to use her sexual appeal to get everything she wants in life. It was a real page-turner for me and I went straight on to the sequel The Avenue Goes to War. These books would make a great TV series. (Jack’s just told me they have been made for TV, back in 1978 as People Like Us.)

The setting of the suburb is twelve miles from London Stone, (something which I must admit I had never even heard of before) a place that would nowadays be very definitely seen as London itself, so far and wide has London crept.

6 thoughts on “The Dreaming Suburb by R.F. Delderfield

  1. I have several books by Delderfield waiting on my shelves to be read, but after I read this post and looked him up online, I realized that he wrote many more books than I realized. The Dreaming Suburb is going on my Goodreads list to be read, and I’ll be on the lookout for more of the other series. Thanks for the review.

    • Paula,

      Lucky you, I’ll have to track more of his books down, probably via the internet as his books don’t seem to turn up in secondhand bookshops often.

  2. Katrina, I’ve just finished A Long Summer’s Day and have had to go straight onto the next one in the trilogy. Your assessment of Delderfield as a writer is spot on: nothing fancy, but straightforward and compelling. I’m so pleased to have discovered his books – perfect for my current state of mind. Like you, I also thought the book I was reading would make a brilliant tv dramatisation. I gather that one was made years back. Time his work came back to the notice of tv producers I think!

  3. Like Sandra, I read Long Summer Day recently and loved it, so I will be finishing that series first but definitely want to read the Avenue books eventually too. I’m glad to hear this one was good enough for you to want to move straight on to the next!

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