Red Chair Reads: The Fortnight in September

I love London (I’m with Dr. Johnson on this), and back when plane fares were a tad more affordable, I used to go once a year, usually by myself.  Six years ago, I took my family with me, and we rented a townhouse built at the end of the 17th century.  It was a great four-story house; it had saggy, creaky floors, and there was not one right angle anywhere in it.  It also had a full-size American style washer and dryer set, but that’s another story . . . .  The house was on Lamb’s Conduit Street, and was just a few buildings away from Persephone Books.  At the time, I had not heard of Persephone Books, but I was never one to pass up a bookstore — especially an interesting-looking one.

When we came home, I bought some used copies of various Persephone titles.  And I admit that three of those books are still in the TBR pile . . . .  Anyway, I finally read The Fortnight in September (1931) this past week.  Aside from being a period gem, it also has the distinction of being one of the few books published by Persephone Books that is not by a forgotten woman writer.  R. C. Sherriff (1896-1975) was an English writer who fought in World War I, and became best-known for Journey’s End, a play and book based on his experiences during the Great War.  He went Hollywood in the 1930s and wrote screenplays for movies such as The Invisible ManThat Hamilton Woman, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips, but before all that he wrote The Fortnight in September.

Not much happens in the book: the lower middle-class Stevens family look forward all year to that most English of English holidays, their two weeks at the seaside.  The father has reconciled himself to the fact that he has advanced as far as he can in his small-fry firm, but perhaps it is all right after all, because he is further along than his father, and in turn, he can believe his son will go even further.  During those two weeks at Bognor Regis, other family members have their crystalline moments — the son who realizes that as unhappy as he is at work, he can be more; the daughter who has a moment of romance, and understands it for the “bit of fun” that it is; the wife who gives in to the pleasures of an hour of peace, an hour of doing nothing in a sitting room with her measured glass of port.  This is the life that the men in trenches dreamed about returning to; it is what makes the English, the everyday moments that are worth their loyalty, worth their lives.

CSA Share Week 13:  potatoes, onion, squash, green beans, Asian eggplants, Tuscan kale, purple bell pepper, strawberries, honeydew melon, eggs

Week 13 Recipes:  tomato/eggplant/squash tian; honeydew melon fruit salad; peach (fresh from Palisade, Colorado) bread pudding; sauteed Tuscan kale with white beans; warm green beans with tapenade of olives/heirloom tomato (grown by The Teenager)/grilled banana peppers (also grown by The Teenager)

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