The Courts of Idleness by Dornford Yates #1920 Club

It’s the week of the 1920 Club and I thought I had read quite a few books published in 1920 but it turns out that since starting this blog I’ve only read one – The Courts of Idleness by Dornford Yates, you can read my thoughts on it here.

Oops I’ve just realised that Open the Door by Catherine Carswell was also published in 1920, you can read my thoughts here.

I’ve also read Queen Lucia by E.F. Benson, another 1920 book but apparently didn’t blog about it, that’s strange as I love that series.

Open the Door by Catherine Carswell

This was another random choice from my local library and was first published in 1920. I had never heard of the author before but I was attracted by the blurb on the back. The book is set in Glasgow at first, then the action moves to Italy and then to London before finally ending up in Auchtermuchty (yes, there is such a place) in Fife.

The story starts off in Glasgow in the early 1900s and I found that part enjoyable, mainly because everything was happening in my much beloved old stomping ground of Glasgow Uni, Kelvingrove, the botanic gardens and the Rennie Mackintosh designed Glasgow School of Art.

But I didn’t really like any of the characters in this book, especially not the main one, Joanna Bannerman. She was brought up in a strictly Calvinist household (who isn’t in Scotland?) But she still manages to get married to an Italian (Mario) whom she hardly knows and moves to Italy, where he holds her a virtual prisoner because he doesn’t want any men to look at her.

Mario had previously deliberately smashed some antique wine glasses because they had been bought at a time when Joanna had a relationship with another man. My Top Tip to Joanna is that this was the time to RUN because he is a NUTTER.

This is an autobiographical novel and in a piece of wishful thinking Mario is killed off in a cycling accident. In reality Catherine Carswell’s English husband ended up in an asylum, having gone mad, and she had to have her marriage annulled, no simple task.

Back to the book – after becoming a widow Joanna returns to Glasgow and eventually becomes the lover of a married artist, Louis Pender. Did I mention how much I disliked Joanna and what a bad judge of men she was?

When Louis ends up spending more time in London where his wife and family are, Joanne moves there too. Things eventually fizzle out after a disastrous trip to Edinburgh (know the feeling) and Joanna decides to revisit her family’s old holiday home in Fife. She bumps into some old friends, one of whom has been holding a torch for Joanna for years and she suddenly realises that she loves him.

It was at this point that the words- Pass the bucket – flashed through my mind.

This may be really unfair as I am not a big fan of romances. I love Jane Austen but that is because of the wit and sarcasm. I can cope with romance if there is a lot of authentic history too.

But a book ending up with romance in a field in Auchtermuchty, Fife, can only be a disappointment to me.