In the first in the series Kathleen Dixon Donnelly takes a look back at the year 1920 and documents what was happening amongst the artists and writers of the time. Following 4 main groups:
William Butler Yeats and the Irish Literary Renaissance
Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group
Gertrude Stein and the Americans in Paris
Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table
but including other key writers, artists and patrons who were equally important in creating the atmosphere around them, this is a knowledgeable, fun and gossipy read!
Using snippets from diaries and letters, newspapers, magazines and telegrams we get the first reactions to This Side of Paradise, Yeats on his American lecture tours, opening nights at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, Sylvia Beach meeting Joyce at a dinner party and this brilliant line from Dorothy Parker when house hunting
‘All I need is room enough to lay a hat and a few friends.’
And there are lots of photo’s, of people, advertisements, tickets and telegrams – just like a diary. I’ve only so far dipped into this volume but the next two are available and are definitely worth a read for anyone interested in the early 20th century. The name Such Friends comes from Yeats, The Municipal Gallery Revisited and is also the name of Kathleen’s blog.
‘Think where man’s glory most begins and ends,
and say my glory was I had such friends.’
The ReadChristie2023 prompt for February is a murder method – use of a blunt instrument, and Partners in Crime is the title they’ve chosen.
Tommy and Tuppence Beresford have been happily married for six years and Tuppence in particular is bored. But just as she’s yearning for excitement, Mr Carter (who works in government intelligence) arrives and asks them if they would be willing to take over the now defunct ‘Blunt’s International Detective Agency’ in London. They must pose as the owners and intercept any blue Russian letters that arrive as they search for a secret agent known as 16. But while they’re waiting for messages they can run the place as they wish, so ‘Blunt’s Brilliant Detectives! Any case solved in twenty-four hours!’ is born.
Continue reading “Partners In Crime” →
This was a brilliant film to start the year. Based on actual documents from the trial, it chronicles the hours leading up to Joan of Arc’s execution for heresy.
Every scene in the courtroom is slow and agonising. The camera settles on the young face of Joan (Renee Maria Falconetti) with painfully close up shots as she wipes tears from her cheeks before it wanders around her accusers. The simple terror and saintliness expressed in her face is counterbalanced by the powerful, ecclesiastic jurists who claim they only want what is best for her. The haunting lighting and dramatic use of angles highlights every grotesque gesture in this phoney trial.
When she’s found guilty and the film moves to her burning at the stake, the stark quietness of the courtroom is replaced by a broken-hearted crowd . The scenes of her followers being beaten and killed by officials are shockingly realistic and a mother breastfeeding her baby in a bold, unflinching scene still looks daring.
Directed by the Danish film maker Carl Theodor Dreyer and released in 1928, The Passion of Joan of Arc is considered a land mark in cinema history because of its camera work, use of lighting and set design. I was reminded in places of Citizen Kane (1941), but I thought this was better. It’s simple in style but bold and creative and very dramatic. I watched it on the BFI player.
There’s an unfamiliar body wearing nothing but a splendid pair of gold pince-nez in Mr. Thipps’ bath in Battersea. Inspector Sugg arrives from Scotland Yard and arrests Mr. Thipps and the maid on the spot. But when a rich and respected financier disappears from his house in Park Lane it’s clear that this is no ordinary case. Is it the body of Sir Reuben Levy? If it is what’s his connection with Mr Alfred Thipps and if it isn’t whose body is it and where is Sir Reuben?
Luckily Thipps is an architect working on the church roof at Denver, and the Dowager Duchess of Denver on hearing his news phones her son Lord Peter Wimsey directly. Lord Peter drops everything and hot foots it to Battersea where, with his valet Mervyn Bunter (a keen photographer) he gets to work on the case. When they meet with Inspector Parker who’s investigating the disappearance of Sir Reuben Levy the three put their heads together to solve the puzzle.
Continue reading “Whose Body?” →
Emily Inglethorp is a wealthy women living with her much younger second husband at Styles Court, her large, isolated, manor house in Styles St.Mary. There are seven people living at Styles: Emily’s step-sons from her first husbands first marriage, John and Lawrence Cavendish; John’s wife Mary, Emily’s companion Evelyn and a young friend of the family Cynthia Murdoch. A group of people all with some connection to each other and all with their own assortment of secrets.
Arthur Hastings has been invalided from the Front and after a spell in a convalescent home has been given a months sick leave. Wondering what to do he runs into his old friend John Cavendish who invites him to spend his leave at Styles, with the family. The house and Emily, Hastings remembers well although he hasn’t been there for years. Tea is spread in the shade of a sycamore tree and Hastings tells them of his hope to be a detective after the war. Indeed, while in Belgium he came across a very famous detective ‘he quite inflamed me. . . He was a funny little man, a great dandy, but wonderfully clever.’ And then on a trip into Tadminster who should Hastings bump into when buying some stamps, but his old friend:
‘”Mon ami Hastings”!’ he cried. “It is indeed mon ami Hastings”!
“Poirot!” I exclaimed.’
With much gratitude, Poirot explains that through the charitable works of Mrs Inglethorp, he is one of a group of Belgium refugees who are living together in Tadminster. So the scene is set and everyone is quickly in place for a good dose of poisoning by strychnine.
Continue reading “The Mysterious Affair At Styles” →
Reading this is to be wrapped in sunshine, just looking at the cover makes me happy!
First published in 1922, it’s 1919 when cousins Jane and Lucilla, after spending the war years tucked away in a small boarding school, are finally set free in the world. Their guardian meanwhile has gambled away their inheritance and the girls find themselves with just a small cottage in the English countryside. After deciding against marriage they agree that they’re going to earn their livings. They won’t see themselves as genteel spinsters but as adventurers with the world before them.
‘If we’re going to worry all the time about the past and the future we shan’t have any time at all. We must take everything as it comes and enjoy everything that is – well, that is enjoyable. . . Live for the moment- and do all you can to make the next moment jolly too, as Carlyle says, or is it Emerson?’
Picking themselves up and jollying along, presence of mind and the belief that everything will be a lark (the lark of the title), while still having breath to whistle Mendelssohn is the order of the day, and the girls’ carry on with aplomb; meeting an assortment of characters and getting mixed up in a series of misadventures until everything ends happily – I won’t give the plot away but there’s no point even considering that this is a novel with an unhappy ending!
But before we all dissolve in a puddle of brown sugar Nesbit saves us with her humour.
Continue reading “The Lark” →
Written in 1920, Tension is set in the Commercial and Technical College for the South-West of England and about the appointment of a new Lady Superintendent, Miss Marchrose. Mark Easter whose wife is in a ‘home for inebriates’ , also works at the college and lives with his two unruly children in a villa near Sir Julian, the chairman of the college and his wife Lady Edna Rossiter. Mark is a handsome, sociable, easy going sort and quickly befriends Miss Marchrose, but Lady Rossiter is sure that this is the same Miss Marchrose that some years ago, jilted her invalided cousin.
Mark Easter’s children are wonderfully real. Squabbling, crying and always sticky they interrupt and disturb without a thought and the book opens with the exasperation of Sir and Lady Rossiter as they try to manage the two urchins who burst in on their breakfast to declare that their aunt has written a book: ‘Why Ben! A Story of the Sexes.’ The scene is fun, farcical and full of humour but from this light beginning the tension grows until I wasn’t squirming (as the preface said I might) but tied in a tight knot of outrage at the gossip and bullying, incredulous to what was being said and aghast at what wasn’t.
Continue reading “Tension” →
I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to reading Katherine Mansfield, this group of 15 short stories written between 1920 and 1922 were so enjoyable; easy to read and insightful. Some of the stories were just a few pages, others ran to chapters but I think what linked them was their thoughts on age.. How the young view the old and how the old view the young but also how at any time we might find ourselves out of step with our age, unsure what’s expected of us or how we’re supposed to behave.
Katherine Mansfield’s view of old age is really quite scary and sad! In Miss Brill, the elderly lady puts on her fur coat and goes to listen to the band play in the park. All is well as she watches and muses on the people around her noticing how odd the old people look ‘as if they’d just come from dark little rooms or even – even cupboards! But then she hears a young couple describing her – is it possible that she is one of the elderly, looking so strange? Seeing herself from a different perspective, the callousness of the couple is so cruel, the effect on Miss Brill is heartbreakingly sad and the loneliness of old age is very real as she hurries back to the familiarity of her room.
Continue reading “The Garden Party” →
My first Classics Club read for the year and I’ve managed to read and review my spin title before the January 30th deadline! Unfortunately that’s the end of the good news. I came to this having no idea what to expect and got a bit of shock and will come clean at the beginning by saying that I haven’t read this in a linear, read every word kind of way.
The gradual disintegration of the Compson’s, an old family from the American South is told through four fractured narratives, using stream of consciousness, flashbacks and inner monologues. There were times when I was completely lost, I didn’t know who was who, whether they were male or female, family or friend or stranger, grandparent or child. But I did feel a sense of dread in the heap of broken images.
Continue reading “The Sound and the Fury” →
Published in 1920 This Side of Paradise charts the coming of age of Amory Blaine, born on a spring day in 1896.
I was going to start by saying that it begins with his being a snot of a little boy but I realised that wouldn’t be very fair because he just is what he is. And that’s an only child bought up by his mother, Beatrice, ‘whose youth passed in Renaissance glory’ and is now ‘versed in the latest gossip of the Older Roman Families’ , her husband Stephen is sometimes in the background but it’s Amory who is her companion. He is absurdly handsome and his mother parades him before her friends: ‘she fed him sections of the Fêtes galantes before he was ten; at eleven he could talk glibly, if rather reminiscently, of Brahms and Mozart and Beethoven.’ Beatrice is charming and beautiful and delicate with a body that’s a mass of frailties and a soul to match, ‘next to doctors, priests were her favourite sport.’ She wafts around until she just wafts away when Amory decides he wants to go to school.
‘Amory wondered how people could fail to notice that he was a boy marked for glory, and when faces of the throng turned towards him and ambiguous eyes stared into his, he assumed the most romantic of expressions and walked on the air cushions that lie on the asphalts of fortune.’
Continue reading “This Side Of Paradise” →