I read Angel Pavement by J.B. Priestley for The 1930 Club. It was only the second book by Priestley that I had read, the first being The Good Companions and although I didn’t love Angel Pavement as much as that one I did like it. Angel Pavement is a small cul de sac in London, it seems to be fictional although there is now such a place in Royston, Hertfordshire, presumably named after the book.
The setting is London during the depression, work is difficult to come by, it’s very hard for ordinary people to make ends meet and everyone lives in fear of losing their job. Businesses are just scraping along too and hoping for an upturn, so as you can see in getting on for 100 years – not much has changed.
The book begins with Mr Golspie sailing into London on a ship that he boarded in the Baltic. He’s originally a Londoner and seeing the city in the distance he wonders why he ever left. He’s not the sort of man who has to worry about getting work, he has the gift of the gab, is super confident and knows how to reel a certain type of person in with his talk of wonderful success to come. He intends to make money by selling wood veneers, something that he has learned about while living in the Baltic areas. When Golspie talks his way into a job at Twigg and Dersingham which is an old established firm run by a rather feckless second generation in the shape of Mr Dersingham who until Gospie arrived has been worrying about the state of his business. When the orders for veneers start piling in Dersingham swallows his reservations about Golspie’s character although Mrs Dersingham will have nothing to do with Golspie.
Priestley lets the reader look into the lives of everyone in the company’s office, from the dogsbody lad to the office manager. They all have their problems and they’re often the same problems that people and families have nowadays.
Priestley was a master at writing dialogue in different dialects, something which can’t be at all easy to do and his descriptions and observations on the human condition are so well observed. This book is darker and more depressing that Good Companions if I’m recalling correctly, but apparently it is judged to be better than that very popular earlier book. I’m in need of something more uplifting at the moment though – who isn’t I ask myself?! The passage below struck me as being exactly how I’ve felt when flicking through some of those glossy lifestyle magazines, minus the need for a cigarette of course. I never know who any of those so-called celebrities are anyway.
Miss Matfield went into the lounge, to smoke a cigarette, and spent an envious ten minutes glancing through one of those illustrated weeklies that seem to be produced simply to glorify that small section of society which works only to keep itself amused. It showed her photographs of these demigods and goddesses racing and hunting in the cold places, bathing and lounging in the warm places, and eating and drinking and swaggering in places of every temperature. By the time she finished her cigarette Miss Matfield quite understood the temptation to start a revolution, and told herself that these papers simply asked for one.
I read this one for The 1930 Club.