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

After Leaving Mr Mackenzie by Jean Rhys

After Leaving Mr McKenzie cover

After Leaving Mr Mackenzie by Jean Rhys was first published in 1930. Previously I’ve read her very well known Wide Sargasso Sea and to be honest I seem to remember that I wasn’t nearly as enthralled by that one as many other readers have been, although it’s many years since I read it. I also read her Good Morning, Midnight and I found that one a bit depressing.

For me After Leaving Mr Mackenzie is a much better book, not exactly uplifting though. It’s the story of Julia Martin, a not so young woman (well not as young as many men prefer) who has had lots of gentlemen friends. Originally from London she made her way to France as a youngster, looking for adventure and a way out of the poverty of her family home and leaving her younger sister to cope with their mother.

Her most recent man had become disenchanted with her six months previously but he had been sending her a cheque every month and she squandered the money, so when he makes it clear that there will be no more cheques from him she realises that she’ll have to go out and find another man who will support her. But that’s easier said than done as she’s no longer as attractive as she once was.

I found this to be a poignant and atmospheric read, no doubt it’s autobiographical, it seems that Rhys had a sad life, one of those people who was her own worst enemy. You can read a bit about her here.

Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

This book has been hanging about waiting to be read for a few years now and it’s also on my Classics Club list, so after reading about Jean Rhys in the Guardian on Saturday I thought it was time to give it a dust down and read it.

Good Morning, Midnight was first published in 1939 and is part of a Quartet, in fact it’s the last one and I haven’t read the others, I seem to be reading books all out of order at the moment, annoyingly.

It’s the story of Sophia Jansen, a middle aged English woman who had lived in Paris for some time as a young woman. She has been given some money to go to Paris to revisit some of her old haunts. She’s on a slippery slope as she has a drink problem and knows that everyone is talking about her when she is drinking in cafes, she isn’t one of the regulars and she isn’t welcome. She’s too old and the city has changed, and when she does look back on her earlier days there, her memories aren’t good ones.

What can I say? The book is well written, although there is quite a lot of French in it so you might find it difficut if you don’t know any French. But it’s just not an uplifting read, in fact it could be quite depressing, especially as I’ve calculated that she is probably only supposed to be about 40, maybe not even that, and she’s regarded as very much past it. I can see why it didn’t sell very well.

On the bright side, it’s on The Classics Club list so I’m one closer to reaching the end, but it’s still a very long list. Have a look.

1. Deerslayer by J. Fenimore Cooper
2. Uther and Igraine by Warwick Deeping
3. Heroes by Thomas Carlyle
4. The Lady of the Camelias by Alexandre Dumas
5. Swan Song by John Galsworthy
6. End of the Chapter by John Galsworthy
7. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
8. Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov
9. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
10. The Talisman by Walter Scott
11. Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
12. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
13. Nana by Emile Zola
14. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
15. The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope
16. The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope
17. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
18. The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett
19. Roderick Random by Tobias Smollett
20. The Naulahka by Rudyard Kipling and W. Balestier
21. O Pioneer! by Willa Cather
22. Moby Dick by Hermann Melville
23. The Crowded Street by Winifred Holtby
24. The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
25. An Unsuitable Attachment by Barbara Pym
26. The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett
27. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
28. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
29. The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
30. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh
31. Witch Wood by John Buchan
32. The Courts of the Morning by John Buchan
33. The Gap in the Curtain by John Buchan
34. Love by Elizabeth von Arnim
35. The Corn King and the Spring Queen ny Naomi Mitchison
36. Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys
37. A Favourite of the Gods by Sybille Bedford
38. Poor Caroline by Winifred Holtby
39. The World my Wilderness by Rose Macaulay
40. Salem Chapel by Mrs Oliphant
41. The Republic by Pliny
42. The Harsh Voice by Rebecca West
43. Chatterton Square by E.H. Young
44. Not So Quiet by Hellen Zenna Smith
45. The Tenth Man by Graham Greene
46. The Third Man by Graham Greene
47. Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene
48. White Fang by Jack London
49. The Box Office Murders by Freeman Wills Crofts
50. Inspector French’s Greatest Case by Freeman Wills Crofts
51. Mystery in the Channel by Freeman Wills Crofts
52. Man Overboard by Freeman Wills Crofts
53. Mystery on Southampton Water by Freeman Wills Crofts
54. The Hog’s Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts
55. Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe

From the Guardian: My Hero – Jean Rhys

Linda Grant has chosen to write about Jean Rhys in the Guardian review section this week. You can read the article below.

Photo of Jean Rhys

The 20-century novelist Jean Rhys
A level gaze… Rhys is mainly known for the post-colonial context of Wide Sargasso Sea, but her Paris-set 1930s novels have chilling power.

When I was in my 20s in the 1970s I read all of Jean Rhys. I have reread very little since because the first impressions were so powerful they have stayed with me.

Rhys is mainly known for her novel Wide Sargasso Sea, a retelling of Jane Eyre from the perspective of the mad wife in the attic, and I scandalised an audience at the British Library a few years ago by claiming it was a greater novel than Charlotte BrontĂ«’s. Rhys in recent years has most often been seen her in the context of post-colonial writing, but it was the novels written and set in Paris in the 1930s that chilled me to the bone.

A woman, somewhat faded, sits in a room waiting for the post, which might contain a cheque from a former lover that will give her the money to buy a new dress so she can sit in a cafe and attract a new lover. There is a fine line between this and prostitution. I used to wonder if her female characters were simply Jane Austen heroines kicked away from Hampshire and left stranded in the early 20th century. Work is always a last option, jobs are for the defeated, there is no sense of a career leading to independence.

When I read Rhys, I lost interest in fireworks in fiction. Sentence after apparently unremarkable sentence would pass until suddenly you would feel yourself hit in the solar plexus by the accumulated tension. I would look back and ask: how did you do that?

She is the novelist of longing and yearning and rage and sexual desire, and the need for nice clothes and the fear of what happens to women when they lose their looks and become the old woman alone upstairs, drinking alone, smoking alone, dying alone. In After Leaving Mr Mackenzie, the character Julia appears to have no instinct for self-preservation. Yet her creator endures, one of the 20th-century greats. I would die to write like her.

I can’t comment on her novels which are set in 1930s Paris as I haven’t read any of them, but I do have a copy of Good Morning, Midnight – so I think I’ll bump it up my reading pile as I’m intrigued to know what it’s like now.

I have read Wide Sargasso Sea – twice in fact, and watched it on TV but I was never greatly impressed with it. I certainly don’t rate it as highly as Jane Eyre. But – each to their own I suppose.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

I had just been thinking that it was about time that I re-read Wide Sargasso Sea, probably as part of the Flashback Challenge. Jean Rhys wrote the book as a prequel to Jane Eyre and it’s the story of Mr. Rochester’s first wife.

As these things often happen, I noticed that a biography of Jean Rhys has just been published, it was reviewed in The Guardian Review last Saturday.

It’s called The Blue Hour: A portrait of Jean Rhys and is by Lilian Pizzichini. It sounds like it could be a really interesting read but I’m going to wait a bit and see if my local library will be buying it.

I’m not supposed to be buying books if I can at all help it, mainly because they are taking over the house. But let’s face it, sometimes you just can’t help it and you find yourself on Amazon or Abebooks yet again.