Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Greenery Street

I finished Denis Mackail's Greenery Street today and have to say that I was thoroughly charmed by it, despite my impatience at times with the naivete of the young and very happily married couple, in particular, Felicity, the wife. There were moments I was so annoyed by her hopelessness that I had to put the book down.

About Persephone Books' No. 35:

PG Wodehouse described this 1925 novel as 'so good that it makes one feel that it's the only possible way of writing a book, to take an ordinary couple and just tell the reader all about them.' Greenery Street can be read on two levels - it is a touching description of a young couple's first year together in London, but it is also a homage - something rare in fiction - to happy married life.

Ian and Felicity Foster are shown as they arrive at 23 Greenery Street, an undisguised and still unchanged Walpole Street in Chelsea. Their uneventful but always interesting everyday life is the main subject of a novel that evokes the charmingly contented and timeless while managing to be both funny and profound about human relations.

Anyway, it's charming in that Mackail writes in the third person narrative and because of his theatre background we're treated to parts in the book that are laid out very much like scenes in a script with the dialogue between the young marrieds set out as if stage directions.

Here's the amusing set-up to a scene in which the couple dine with their brother-in-law:

We haven't had much space for descriptions of people in this record so far; we have rather had to take them as they came; but we must try and squeeze in a paragraph for Mr and Mrs Foster's brother-in-law - if only because he was so shy that we should never get to know him if we waited for him to make the first move.

How can one not be tickled by writing such as this?

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