Wednesday, December 11, 2013

And now for something completely different (take 2)

(I have to add a tag to the title, because it turns out that years and years ago, I used this title once before.)

I like to keep you guessing as to what you're going to find here on any given day. (It also gives you a window into the workings of my brain.) To that end, we're going to jump from parenting and adoption to my favorite British authors who wrote between WWI and WWII. This is all due to the fact that I have been working my way through Dorothy Sayer's Lord Peter Wimsey series.

I have been thoroughly rereading these books. I have loved it so much that it has made me think I need to move to some of my other favorite authors from this period and reread them. It also made me mention to J. that if someone forced me to become a historian and choose a historical period to focus on, these years between the wars in England would be what I chose.

(To which he raised his eyebrows and asked, "Forced?" I admit that having to do research in a library on a topic I am interested in... with no other distractions... is a kind of fantasy of mine.)

But back to why I find it so interesting. I am fascinated by the attitudes and behaviors of the young adults who returned from WWI and how they interacted with the strong class system which was still in place in England. The disillusionment engendered by the Great War led to the over-the-top frivolous behavior of the 20's and 30's.

I am interested in how contemporary writers (admittedly of more popular fiction), who set their stories in the present (well, their present), dealt with this. P. G. Wodehouse created caricatures of the different types with Bertie Wooster, Jeeves, and all the other characters which people his stories. Dorothy Sayers uses Lord Peter to introduce a character who on the surface looks very Bertie Wooster-like, yet underneath is highly intelligent with a more interesting moral compass. E. M. Benson focuses on a slightly older population with his series about Mapp and Lucia. Angela Thirkell took on a whole (imaginary) county in her series of Barsetshire books which begins in the 30's and continues on through and past WWII. Then there's always G. K. Chesterton, A. A. Milne, the inklings...

And did you know that many of you are interested in this time period as well? You are if you have become fascinated by the BBC series Downton Abbey... season three is set in this very time period. Delving into the writing of the period again has clarified for me the couple of quibbles I have with the series. (I have really enjoyed it, but a couple of things always seemed off.) The first is the writer's tendency to introduce modern mores on characters to whom they would be unknown. This is a danger of any historical fiction because it is so difficult to remove ourselves from our own time period. The second quibble is the one I've just put my finger on: Everyone is so terribly, terribly serious. It was, on the surface, a frivolous time. P. G. Wodehouse didn't make up Bertie Wooster out of thin air, he needed real people who behaved perhaps a little too close to Bertie for the comedy to really work. Bertie had to have enough basis in reality for readers to recognize him. There are not really any members of the Drone's club visiting Downton. It's a shame, too, because Maggie Smith as the Dowager Duchess would make such a fantastic Wodehouse aunt.

What's the point of all of this, well, it's mainly to encourage you to pick up one of my favorite authors that I've just mentioned and give them a try. They are all really wonderful books. One note about Lucia. It is the one time I will suggest reading a series out of order. I have found in listening to people's reactions to the books that if they start with the book, Mapp and Lucia, they love them, but if they start at the beginning, they are not so crazy about them. I think it's because you have to really like Lucia, despite her unique quirks, to get the books. The best way to appreciate Lucia is to start with Mapp and Lucia and meet her there.

Finally, since we're on the subject of books, residents of Illinois are now invited to be Amazon Associates once again. You know how this works. If you go to the Amazon widget on my sidebar and use it to click through to Amazon, then whatever you buy through that link, gives a small percentage back to this blog. I kept the old widget up even when the Associates program wasn't in place because it was a great way to keep a running list of good family read aloud books. But since I'm back in the program, I went through and did some editing and adding. It's an updated list that I will keep adding to. If you are looking for a good book to share with your children, take a look. And I wouldn't complain if you were to do a little shopping through the link either. I hate advertising of all forms, so this is what I limit it to on the blog and I probably won't mention it again.

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