The 1930 Club


I’m taking part in The 1930 Club which is hosted by Simon of Stuck in a Book and Karen of Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings and so I’m reading Angel Pavement by J.B. Priestley which is 613 pages long so I doubt if I’ll be reading any others. I’ve been busy with visitors until now so I’ll be glad to immerse myself in reading this week.

As it happens I’ve read a lot of books that were published in 1930 in the past and the links will take you to the ones I’ve previously blogged about.

Alice and Thomas and Jane by Enid Bagnold

Not So Quiet by Helen Zenna Smith

The Weatherhouse by Nan Shepherd

After Leaving Mr Mackenzie by Jean Rhys

Miss Mole by E.H. Young

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop by Gladys Mitchell

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

Morning Tide by Neil M. Gunn

The Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham

The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M. Delafield

Miss Mole by E.H.Young

Miss Mole by E.H. Young was first published in 1930 but my copy is a 1934 re-print, at least the tenth time it had been re-printed so it was obviously a very popular book from the start.

To begin with I really disliked Miss Hannah Mole, there’s nothing attractive about her in looks or character, she seems to have a fleeting relationship with the truth and is quite happy to lie her head off if it suits her.
…Hannah was not scrupulous about the truth. She was not convinced of its positive value as human beings knew it, she considered it a limiting and embarrassing convention. The bare truth was often dull and more often awkward, while lies were a form of imagination and a protection for the privacy of her thoughts and, in a life lived in houses which were not her own and where she was never safe from intrusions.

I ended up admiring her though, she’s quick witted, humorous and kind – what more could you want in a friend?

She’s an odd looking person, almost 40 and dressed in peculiar clothes, although she never skimps on her footwear as she knows that people judge you by your shoes. She’s had a succession of jobs, mainly as companions to wealthy women, and she’s always being sacked from them as she’s not exactly dedicated to the work and she’s insolent to them, and when she gets a chance of a job as a housekeeper to a non-conformist minister whose wife has died she jumps at the opportunity to move up and look after his family and home.

For a large part of the book it’s swathed in mysteries such as – why is Hannah so poverty stricken if she has her own cottage that she’s renting out? There’s a hint of a man in the background, her sorrowful past. But in the end it all works out satisfactorily. This is the second E.H. Young book that I’ve read for the Undervalued British Women Novelists Group on Facebook.

Chatterton Square by E.H. Young

Chatterton Square cover

My copy of Chatterton Square by E.H. Young is a Virago reprint from 1987 and I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve had it sitting on a shelf all those years unread. It was the Undervalued British Women Novelists Facebook Group that I’m a member of that spurred me on to dust it off and read it at last, and I’m so glad that I did. It was my first book by E.H. Young and I loved it, it’s the last book that she wrote and is possibly her best one, subsequently I’ve read her Miss Mole and I didn’t enjoy that one quite as much.

Chatterton Square is set in Upper Radstowe, (Bristol) it’s an area that’s slightly past its best but not quite down at heel. The Fraser family is a large one and their house in the square is owned by Rosamund Fraser, it had been built by her grandfather and she has always lived there. Her husband Fergus has abandoned her and his family and is thought to be living somewhere in France. His absence is a bit of a relief all round as his rages and bad behaviour in general had upset everyone. Miss Spanner, an old family friend has moved into the house since his departure.

A house across the road has been rented by the Blackett family. Mr Blackett has been born thirty or forty years too late, he’s really a Victorian and tries to control everything, even down to the rather antiquated clothes that his wife wears. He has an enormous ego and thinks that he’s admired by all women. In fact he isn’t even admired by his wife, she had married him as a means of escape from her even more forbidding father, and her honeymoon in Florence had been a ghastly shock to her, something she had never really got over. The fact that her eldest daughter was conceived then and named Florence ensures that she has a constant reminder of it.

The two families begin to fraternise, something that Mr Blackett isn’t very happy about.

Unfortunately for Bertha Blackett her husband is quite besotted by Rosamunde although he claims to dislike her, he is I think annoyed by her ‘hold’ over him despite the fact that Rosamunde barely looks in his direction. Bertha ends up being the recipient of his lust, although that’s all very delicately dealt with. He insist on jamming their double bed up against a wall, meaning that Bertha is stuck between him and the wall, having to clamber over him to get out! Bertha knows her husband inside out but he is absolutely clueless about her character and wishes, she’s just an extension of him as far as he is concerned. He’s shocked when he discovers that she has been reading a different newspaper from him while he’s at work. He’s a bear of very little brain.

There’s so much to say about this book, but I’m just giving a wee flavour of it here, it’s set just as Chamberlain is doing all that toing and froing between Berlin and London in an attempt to avert World War 2. The possibility of war hangs over the whole book with Blackett absolutely sure that there won’t be another war (he had dodged the last one). The spectre of World War 1 follows all the older characters.

Everybody else is quite sure there will be war, particularly the ones who had been in the first war. World War 1 hangs over everything I think, Fergus has almost certainly been damaged by his experiences in that war, hence his moods and rages, things that Rosamunde had probably not bargained for when they were first married. Despite everything Rosamunde is an optimistic woman, which is just as well.

The women are by far the more important characters, the men shadowy compared with them and I love the way Bertha Blackett deals with her obnoxious husband, she’s so much brighter than he is.

Miss Spanner seems to be a favourite type of character with E.H. Young. She’s similar to Miss Mole in many ways and both characters have a habit of ‘knocking’ or pushing their noses at times of distress. I note also that another of Young’s books is titled The Misses Mallett – Young seemed to have been fond of naming spinsters after tools!

Chatterton Square has an afterword by Bel Mooney. I intend to read all of Young’s books eventually.

Books, books, books ….

At the moment I’m reading two books, which isn’t like me, I tend to concentrate on one book at a time. But I bought Bill Bryson’s The Lost Continent – Travels in Small Town America in a charity shop the other day and started reading it on the way home. So I’m reading that one downstairs now while I have my morning tea. It’s a fun, light read.

Upstairs (bedtime and afternoon reading) I’m reading The Silver Darlings by Neil Gunn. It’s a readalong for the Read Scotland 2017 Challenge and I’m way ahead with this one as it’s scheduled for sometime in March. I’m enjoying it although at the moment I’m thinking that some of the sea-faring parts could have done with being a bit shorter.

I’ve finished reading Chatterton Square by E.H. Young, an author I had never read before despite having the book for years (Virago). I loved it but that’s a readalong on Undervalued British Women Novelists 1930 – 1960 so I’ll blog about that one within a couple of weeks. Have you read anything by E.H. Young?

The Silver Darlings is a library book, I’ve only just bought the Bill Bryson book and I made the mistake of popping into a north-east Fife library that I don’t normally visit today, and the upshot of that is that I came out with The Z Murders by J.Jefferson Farjeon.

So my great intention of concentrating on my own book piles has like most plans – gone to hell in a handcart, and although I compiled a list of the first ten Scottish books I intended to read for the Read Scotland 2017 Challenge – and the second Scottish book didn’t even appear on that list, it did however jump out at me from a library shelf, and I just couldn’t ignore it. For me libraries are a bit like those shops that have a mish-mash of stuff for sale, end of lines and last year’s stock such as TK Maxx. If by chance you see something there you want then you had better buy it, or borrow it if you’re in a library, because you just might never see it again.

There’s no cure for it you know!