I find refuge with people in drawing rooms; pulling dust sheets from the furniture and filling silent spaces with stories. I am not content with today by itself – I want context, I want meaning and I want history. I like discovering and bringing the past to life. I need The Classics. I know that older isn’t necessarily better, so I like historical fiction too – new writers bring new perspectives after all. But what is better than the wicked wit of Mitford? The cutting observations of Woolf? The universal truths of Austen? Narrowing it even further: How can you improve upon writing from the most turbulent and influential periods in history?
I’ve had a break from classics whilst I read a few of Jo Nesbo’s crime novels. They were all action, twisting plots and brutality. Yes, there are plenty of action packed classic novels (and plenty of brutal ones too) but there wasn’t that magical quality of a classic. The sense of being welcomed into something – initiated, maybe – into a much beloved book. I really enjoyed them but I didn’t want to savour them, which is another way of saying that I’d recommend them but I don’t want to write about them.
So I’ve come back to the classics, and my Classics Club list and have started Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford. Set in my favourite period of history, the crossover between the Edwardians and the Great War, the story is made up of four separate volumes: Some Do Not…, No More Parades, A Man Could Stand Up- and The Last Post. The BBC adaptation starts tonight and I have nearly finished the first book so hopefully it won’t spoil anything! There is a nice introduction to Parade’s End on the Penguin Classics features page here.
As you can gather, I’m returning to the War Books project I started back in May – a list of books that seems to be spiraling out of control, so an update post might be required soon. The Penguin link above mentions a few other WWI titles that sound interesting –
- The Middle Parts of Fortune by Frederic Manning
- Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf
- Death of a Hero by Richard Aldington
- Memoirs of an Infantry Officer by Siegfried Sassoon
I finally move house next week (cannot wait) so after Parade’s End I may have to content myself with reading whatever is unpacked. But for now, I’m going to curl up and read about Christopher and Sylvia Tietjens and the last long Edwardian summer.