If you’ve never read it, and you like Thomas Hardy or Jane Austen or satirical takes on Victorian literature, go and read it.
There’s one bit in it that keeps grabbing me, and it kicked me again when I was re-reading the other day. Most of the book is quite light-hearted; it’s meant to be a satirical take on the Victorian drama, with its glowering and brooding, its torrid relationships and fraught affairs. It’s poking fun at society and conventions and the use of a thorn-twig for clettering the dishes (instead of a nice mop, which one can buy in town). But then, in the middle of in the middle of a party designed to throw two young people together and make them fall in love;
“How you do enjoy yourself, don’t you, Florence Nightingale?” observed Claud.
“I do,” retorted Flora, “and so do you.”
It was true; he did. But never without a pang of exquisite pain in his heart, and a conviction that he was a traitor.
It almost comes out of nowhere. Claud is a minor character; he’s one of Flora’s friends, there as a dancing-partner and sender of magazines in Flora’s time of need. He’s amused and casual. We don’t find out much more about him, but the one snippet is almost painful in its honesty.
Claud, who has served in the Anglo-Nigaraguan wars of ’46, was at his ease in the comfortable silence in which they sat, and allowed the irony and grief of his natural expression to emerge from beneath the mask of cheerful idiocy with which he usually covered his sallow, charming face. He had seen his friends die in anguish in the wars. For him, the whole of the rest of his life was an amusing game which no man of taste and intelligence could permit himself to take seriously.
I don’t know why this grabs me so much, but I think it’s the one serious note in the book; the one spike of real emotion and grief pushed into a smiling take on society and literature.
So there you go, my random thoughts for today. I’m currently re-reading Arthur C Clarke and have some thoughts on that, so that’ll likely be a future post!