16 May 2015

1930s reading

Two (library) books from Persephone Press, republishing forgotten or neglected novels from the mid-20th century. 
The endpaper fabric is taken from 'Rope and Dandelion',
a blockprinted velvet designed and printed by
Margaret Calkin James for her new house, 'Hornbeams' in
Hampstead Garden Suburb, in 1936.
"The New House" by Lettice Cooper was published in 1936. Set in one day, it tells of the move from a large family home to a smaller one - a "window of opportunity" for Rhoda, who has been doing her mother's bidding for years and longs to see Life. (The author herself was yet to break free from her own mother.) It deals with the meaning of home and stability within family tradition and the clamouring of the outside world in what we now know was a prelude to WW2 and the class upheavals that followed it. The socialist undercurrents have a different slant today, and though those basic problems remain, the story is quite gripping and the characters arouse outrage at times, soon followed by sympathy. There is vivid jealousy, and poignant depiction of lost love.
Endpapers taken from 'Dahlias', a 1931 design for a dress silk by Madeleine Lawrence
"The Fortnight in September" by RC Sherriff, first published in 1931, is the story of a middle-class London family's holiday at the seaside. I'm not far along in it, not far enough to guess where it's going, but already the family is frighteningly claustrophobic. The "period details" are interesting - what are sandshoes, and were sailboats (toys) really called yachts?

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