Tuesday, July 1, 2014

This Little World by Francis Brett Young

This is a lovely story very reminiscent in style to R.F. Delderfield, and in theme to Dorothy Evelyn Smith's The Lovely Day and Margaret Kennedy's The Feast. It's a "slice of life" tale set in a small village in the Midlands some years after WW1. The village is picking up the pieces, sadly depleted of it's fine men, and people's lives and businesses are topsy turvy. Those who were wealthy gentry before the war find themselves struggling to pay their bills, and conversely, some everyday Joe Shmoes are rolling in money as a result of businesses (such as munitions) which thrived during the war.

As with many 'slice of life' books, no one character is given more attention to others, in fact its difficult to find a main character at all, but in this book you can almost do it in the form of Miles Ombersley who has just inherited his father's ancestral estate...complete with debt.

It's a story of everyday people and how life changes them from the inside out. You will see how some are ruined through bad choices (otherwise termed "bad luck") and become less likeable, while others actually mature and flourish under tests of character.

FBY's descriptions are a delight to the senses.They make you step back and say, Now why didn't I think of that! I'll give you an example:

One character, while driving into town on business, notices the growth of traffic on the roads and muses to himself how the brightly painted motor vehicles glide slowly and smoothly like newly hatched butterflies in every color, making his Silver Ghost seem so old fashioned by comparison...

I also liked his tongue in cheek humor. For instance when an old woman is lying prone, dying, the doctor calls for her next of kin and privately begs the good lady to brace herself for the shock in her sister's appearance. "Oh,Laura was never a beauty", she replied blandly.

 Or when said old lady recovers, she is told how the doctor saved her life her response was "his charges were certainly moderate. His bill for the whole of my illness was less than three pounds..."

I just love that!

One other thing I enjoyed near the beginning of the book was the minister complaining to the doctor about how difficult it was to rouse the village to camaraderie. He says,"It isn't that I want to improve them, I want them to enjoy themselves without being self conscious, I want to give them more fun!"

"Merry England and all that? No, Vicar, that hobby won't gallop. You see, England isn't merry by nature, and I doubt if it ever was. We have no abandon. We're stiff Northerners, self conscious and reserved. You can't make us unbutton...We English people are such individualists. Our homes are our castles; we're always on the defensive. Five hundred years ago we jolly well had to be. Then our lives, though you'd hardly believe it, are tremendously full and as different from another as -what shall I say- our cottage gardens. We hate what you call "being organized"- unless we're convinced that it's absolutely necessary for some specific reason. A war, for instance...and even then, though we take it like lambs, we like to pretend that our organization is voluntary...."

It's been too long since Ive read Francis Brett Young. His books are so well worthwhile. If you dislike Hardyesque descriptions you probably wont have the patience for this but I drank in every word. It's brilliant!

SEX: None (past indiscretions of town characters mentioned)
VIOLENCE: Mild (a car crash)


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