The African Queen

The African Queen by C S Forester

I acquired this beautiful little volume of The African Queen (MacMillan Collector’s Library) a couple of years ago, having been additionally attracted by its special presentation. It held comfortably in the hand, felt luxurious with its little blue ribbon book mark, and fine gold embossed pages – augmenting the great satisfaction of this “read”.

The story of The African Queen would be well-known to many, having been immortalised in the 1951 film made by John Huston, starring Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, with some of it made near location in Uganda and The Congo. 

C S Forester wrote this novel in 1935, just before he started the Hornblower series. The story is set early in World War 1, 1915, when German East Africa had control of Lake Tanganyika, in the west, and also had control of the adjacent Indian Ocean on its eastern border via the port of Dar es Salaam. Forester changed the names of the real name places and boats, giving us fictionalised, but thinly veiled versions of these real places, boats, and events leading to the loss of control of Lake Tanganyika by Germany to the British Forces.

Forester’s names and places in The African Queen:

Lake Tanganyika became Lake Wittelsbach.

The Ulanga River was probably the Ugalla River, with its source on today’s Ugalla Game Reserve.

The Königen Luise was the fictional name for the real ship patrolling the Lake, the Graf von Götzen. (The Graf Von Gøtzen was sunk by the British in real life; then, at Winston Churchill’s orders was refloated and rebuilt and re-launched in 1927, as The Liemba. This was the old name for Lake Tanganyika from Livingstone’s time. She still plies Lake Tanganyika.)

Our completely fictionalised protagonists were Rose (Sayer), a unmarried 33 year old woman “approaching middle age”!!, who, at the beginning of the story, had been helpmate for the previous 10 years, to her missionary brother, in the forest of German Central Africa, and (Charlie) Allnutt . Allnutt is a Cockney engineer employed by the Belgian gold-mining company a couple of hundred miles up the river. He and Rose are thrown together by circumstance just as Rose’s brother has died of fever, exhaustion and the devastation of his life’s work buy the arrival of the German military. 

“It was at this very moment that Rose looked out across the veranda of the bungalow and saw Opportunity peering cautiously at her. She did not recognise it as Opportunity; she had no idea that the man who appeared there would be the instrument she would employ to strike a blow for England. All she recognised at the moment was that it was Allnutt……-a man her brother had been inclined to set his face sternly against as an un-Christian example.”

To escape the further incursions of the German Military, Rose and Allnutt set off in the dilapidated African Queen down the Ulanga River, and quickly contrive, that if they survive the perilous journey down-river they will attempt to destroy the Konigen Luise, the German patrol boat plying Lake Tanganyika, striking their blow for England. 

The story is beautifully written with rich descriptive language. Rose takes to the tiller with aplomb, and guides the African Queen through numerous treacherous rapids, while Allnutt stokes and manages the engine. The description of their deprivation (except for Allnutt’s Gin and cigarettes), what each are doing and thinking, the state of the waters, banks, the boat, the mosquitoes and leeches, the heat, and eventually, the malaria, make the story compelling. I often felt I was Rose, revelling in her new skill and adventure, steering the African Queen through rapids. I could almost smell the water and hear its thunder.

“Rose silently took hold of the iron rod; it was so hot that it seemed to burn her hand. She held it resolutely, with almost a thrill at feeling the African Queen waver obediently in her course as she shifted the tiller ever so little.”

“Outside she could hear the noise of the African night, the howling of the monkeys, the shriek of some beast of prey, and the bellow of crocodiles down by the river, with, as an accompaniment to it all – so familiar that she did not notice it – the continuous high-pitched whine of the cloud of mosquitos outside her curtains.”

Rose had previously led a very ordered, confined life, with no prospect of personal happiness. Allnutt, also had an isolated and lonely life. In the intensity of their efforts to survive, they find each other as lovers. Forester is so deft with so few words, in conveying the deep comfort they experience in their eroticism. Allnutt becomes “Charlie” to Rose, and Rose is his new and familiar “Old girl”, in his Cockney accent.

The river finally descends from the highlands into the reeds, and then the waterlilies of the lowland, and finally, the restrictions of the river delta. With Rose’s determination and Charlie’s engineering skill, they make their chance to strike their blow for England.

My edition of The African Queen had a very informative afterward by author and academic Giles Foden. He tells us that there were three different endings for the book – the  original ending which Forester himself preferred in which Allnutt dies in the last events of the book; the version which I read, in which Rose and Allnutt both survive, without the exact fulfilment of their mission for which they had hoped; and the third, which was the Hollywood version of that final event. I think I prefer the version which I read, which yet leaves us imagining further about Rose and Charlie.

Reading The African Queen was exhilarating. 

The African Queen history

The African Queen today

The Story Behind The African Queen

Back to the Classics Challenge 2019: My List

Back to blogging, after a break!! For some years I have followed a variety of bloggers, mainly with topics about sewing, knitting, health, reading, cooking. A longtime favorite is Katrina from Pining for the West.

Katrina lives in Fife, yet pines for the west of Scotland, where she grew up. She is a prolific reader, and reviewer of her reads on her blog. A recent post of hers inspired me to sign up for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2019 run by Karen on her blog Books and Chocolate. Hopefully, I will get the chosen book for each category done and blog reviewed each month. Here is my list, still undecided in one category.

  1. 19th Century: Can You Forgive Her by Anthony Trollope (book one of The Pallisers). I am halfway through the 33 hours of audiobook on my Scribd App, multi-tasked “read” while photoshopping old photos!

2. 20th Century: The African Queen by C. S. Forester. I am nearly finished my visually and tactile-ly pleasing edition by McMillan’s Collectors Library.

3. Classic by a Woman: The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer.

4. Classic in Translation: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque.

5. Classic Comic Novel: One of these: Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis; Aunty Mame by Patrick Dennis.

6. Classic Tragic Novel: A Separate Peace by John Knowles.

7. A very long Classic: The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott…probably by audio.

8. Classic Novella: True Grit by Charles Portis

9. Classic from the Americas: One of these: On the Road by Jack Kerouac; The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway; The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery.

10. Classic from Africa, Asia, or Oceania: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

11. Classic from a place you have lived – Australia. The Harp in the South by Ruth Park.

12. Classic Play: I am a Camera by Christopher Isherwood.

In Bed with an Elephant

 

Reading In Bed with an Elephant: A Journey through Scotland’s Past and Present by Ludovic Kennedy, 1995. This book is from Anne’s library; I recall her telling me years ago that she was reading it with pleasure.

Sir Ludovic was a well-known British broadcaster and a writer regarding miscarriages of justice. As a young child, he believed he was English, and was shocked and delighted to find he was totally Scottish, on both sides of his parentage. He inherited a Baronetcy via his mother following ancestor Sir Patrick Grant, the Scottish Attorney General, some 250 years earlier, agreeing to help subsidize the colony of Nova Scotia.

Ludovic gives a very easy-read interpretation of Scottish history, interspersed with his own life anecdotes. The elephant that Scotland is in bed with is England, as well as insidious anglicization within Scotland.

Wonderful opening paragraph, which explains why Highland hills, Island hills…my land hills, are as they are:

IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE ICE. IN PLACES THE ICE WAS TWO MILES HIGH. I’ll say that again: the ice was two miles high. It covered most of the northern hemisphere, it spanned the Atlantic. In America, it stretched as far south as the latitude of Washington DC, and in Britain, as far south as London. All of Scandinavia and of Scotland lay inert beneath it.

Warwick and I had Ancestry DNA done recently for this years birthday. I was surprised at mine, which had a heavy concentration of ancestry over the last few hundred years in Scotland, the Orkneys and Western Hebrides, Ireland, (no English dots!?!), all confirming the known family histories. What was the biggest surprise was the number of dots on Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, no doubt arising from the Scottish migration to those colonies from the late 1770s, again, no doubt related to the Scottish Clearances, after Culloden. For interest, I have found that there are plenty of Halleys in the current Nova Scotia phone book, and also in the Perth, Scotland phonebook. Love the link to Prince Edward Island, since providing the Anne of Green Gables books to Jenny nearly 30 years ago, and feeling kindred spirit with that island myself since….no wonder, fellow genes were calling….

With respect to more ancient genes, Scandinavian origins indicate the Viking inhabitations of the Orkneys, and Hebrides in the more modern gene alignments. There is  a little German coverage (one German great-grandparent). And 2% “European Jewish” confirming the research finding by Keith Halley, written in a letter to Anne forty years ago of the Jewish refugees from Spain to England many years ago. On relating this last fact to a Jewish friend recently, she was very unimpressed, shrugged, and said, everyone has got some!

The Moonlight State

In May 1987, Four Corners presented Chris Masters’ investigation into Queensland police corruption, which reached all the way up to the Police Commissioner, Terry Lewis. An inquiry was announced the following day, becoming the Fitzgerald Inquiry, resulting in over a hundred covictions, a jail term for the Commissioner, and the end of Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s Premiership. Dear Andrew Olley, long since departed from a brain tumour, was the presenter.

Recently, Four Corners presented a programme called Breaking the Brotherhood, which, now, thirty years later, brought to us the whistle blower police and investigators who gave their stories to Chris Masters. It also explored the frightening consequences for those se whistle blowers, at the time, as well as the severe impacts on their subsequent lives.

Four Corners remains part of the essential eternal vigilance.

I received 2 tickets to Joh for PM, the musical for my  birthday from M, R, H, and M, and had J accompanying me. We watched from a front row table…..’glorious fun’ as described by one reviewer…..apparently Mike Ahern, in the audience, now 75, was laughing his head off.

James Dobinson was the one man band….at Stage Right, doing the musical direction and orchestration. Sitting so close to the front it was an added embellishment watching the music production so closely.

 

The Song List included:

Accidentally (Member for Nanango, then Premier)

Feed the Chooks

We don’t do that nonsense here!

Don’t you worry about that!

Pumpkin scone diplomacy

Slush

and finishing with the rousing I will stand, complete with all characters in Maroon t-shirts and calls of “Queenslander”! with the audience responding in unison with an identfying standing ovation.

For more serious review and reflection on this era, Matthew Condon’s books are fascinating…….a review of Queensland politics and corruption through most of my early and young adult life. Condon is a Brisbane based author and journalist. Brother J put me on to these.

 

 

 

 

Gloriana, Hallelujah!

Gloriana, Hallelujah, the principal soundtrack to the series gets into your head, sung by The Mediaeval Baebes…….

Watching Season 1 of Victoria has been an absolute treat, dare I say it, even better than The Crown. (BTW, Men, eg W and TG, seem to really enjoy these royal biodramas!!). The settings of Buckingham Palace and Westmister Abbey and Windsor Castle have been substituted by other breathtaking palaces and churches. As with The Crown, the cast, the costumes (royal dress, mens and womens, and jewellery), the transport – in this case, horses and carriages, are outstanding; the politics of the day, fascinating to get a take on.

Jenna Coleman, recently from Dr Who, is more classically beautiful and slimmer than Victoria was, but similarly small at 5 feet 2 inches, whereas Victoria was 4 feet 11 inches, some 11 inches shorter than her reasonably elegant Prince Albert. Victoria was not a classical beauty, and was not driven by a focus on matters of her own physical appearance. However, she was very taken by Albert’s appearance, in many scenarios……

‘He is so sensible, so kind, and so good, and so amiable too,’ she writes, adding: ‘He has besides, the most pleasing and delightful exterior and appearance, you can possibly see.’

‘He is extremely handsome, his hair about the same colour as mine. His eyes are large and blue and he has a beautiful nose and very sweet mouth with fine teeth. But the charm of his countenance is his expression, which is most delightful.’

‘I just saw my dearest Albert in his white cashmere breeches, with nothing on underneath,’ – her journal recollection of inspecting a military parade in Hyde Park!

And Albert to Victoria prior to marriage:

Dearest, deeply loved Victoria,
I need not tell you that since we left, all my thoughts have been with you at Windsor, and that your image fills my whole soul.
Even in my dreams I never imagined that I should find so much love on earth. How that moment shines for me when I was close to you, with your hand in mine. Those days flew by so quickly, but our separation will fly equally so. Heaven has sent me an angel whose brightness shall illumine my life. Body and soul ever your slave,

Albert

……every girl’s dream……..

Rufus Sewell plays Lord Melbourne, with whom Victoria had an intense and adoring relationship, in the first two years of her reign, prior to marrying Albert. The series suggests it was romantic, but Victoria’s letters relating to that period, (the ones that DID survive the redacting and burning of originals by her daughter Beatrice upon her death) affirm it was not romantic on her part. Lord Melbourne was forty years older than Victoria, and overweight in this later part of life. There is no doubt he was charming to her, as well as instructive and supportive, all very appealing to her as she had not known her own father, and had been cosseted from society til then. However, one biographer suggests that HE WAS romantically involved with her, and suffered from it to the end, some 11 year after her ascension to the throne. He had, earlier in his life suffered the scandal of his wife’s affair with Byron, (and the death of his son). He had had many liaisons since then, but never allowed himself a committed love again, til his role with the new young Queen (not to suggest the romantic notion in the head was ever enacted in any way – safe it was within the constraints of their roles). Melbourne managed to live at the Palace for a couple of years during this early time, and was devasted as Victoria became otherwise focussed following his retirement and her marriage. She wrote to him regularly for several years then, but this, too, faded, discouraged, as seen inappropriate.

Victoria was a very good horsewoman……..Jenna looks wonderful at side-saddle rides for pleasure, often daily (later dining) with Lord Melbourne, as well as for ceremonial parades. She was an accomplished drawer and painter, having been taught as part of her education, an accomplished musician and singer (sometimes with Albert), able to speak German (first language), English, French, Italian, and Hindustani (learning in 1876, on becoming Empress of India).

Queen Victorias Scrapbook online has been provided by the Royal Household, with compelling excerpts of her letters, her and others art works.

 

There is a surfeit of potential further spin-off reading…..

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin (script-writer for the Series)                     The Victoria Letters: The Official Companion to the ITV Victoria Series by Helen Rappaport

Victoria: The Queen. An Inimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire by Julia Baird (Also of The Drum, Our ABC)

Victoria: A Life by A. N. Wilson

Melbourne by Lord David Cecil, incorporating Young Melbourne and Lord M

An Easter treat from the ABC!

I have two favourite daughter-in-laws (and one favourite son-in-law).

Easter has brought Jessie with grand-children, Emily and Michael, to stay; along with group watching of Seven Types of Ambiguity. This is a lush, compelling, psychological thriller in six parts. Night-scapes of Melbourne help to make the setting a showcase, almost an additional character….as is the cinematography. The cast is excellent, though I gather the whole a “tame adaptation of the book, while retaining some weight and substance.” The novel (2003) by Australian writer Elliot Perlman, is described as Rashmonian, after a 1950 film called Rashomon. “The Rashomon effect is not only about differences in perspective. It occurs particularly where such differences arise in combination with the absence of evidence to elevate or disqualify any version of the truth, plus the social pressure for closure on the question.” Wikip.

The full six parts were provided to iView immediately after screening the first part, so viewers could watch all over Easter.

 

 

The other glut watching, with Miss J, so far are Seasons 1-3 of Friends, which  I had studiously avoided forever before, never having watched a full show before, mainly due to hangups about Jennifer Aniston and her celeb associations, but am now feeling 20 something again, and love all the girls clothes and jewellery (90s), and general joi de vivre, and clever scripts. Lots of laughs, vino, and nibbles.

E happy making Friendship bands, M highly conversational into his Slither iPad game.

The Tide of Life

W, K and J have been away in the USA for the past couple of weeks. Life is quite dull for myself and Holly, but, I have been devoted to bringing closer to the end, the digitisation of an enormous photographic record spanning five generations, including multiple branches of family, concluding a 6 year effort in all; as well as Photoshop cleaning of 1140 photos and slides (up to 440 to date) of W’s Aunt, Ede, who was a missionary in Ethiopia in the 50s. She had the French eye for a great photograph.

As this work is so repetitive and inane a lot of the time, the current co-task is watching in a small adjacent window, old YouTube movies. Have been driven to this as even SBS On Demand is now being eroded, so sad.

Having put “Period Movies” in the YouTube search box, Coming Home was the first movie watched/listened to. The novel was written by Rosamunde Pilcher in 1996, following her breakthrough novel, The Shell Seekers in 1987. The TV series was made in 1998. It is set all around Cornwall, before and during WW11 initially with a teenage Keira Knightly playing the young Judith Dunbar, then Emily Mortimer (lovely daughter of Sir John Mortimer, author of the Rumpole books) playing the adult. A lovely 3 hour sojourn in this family saga.

Similarly long sagas on Youtube have been some of the numerous Catherine Cookson novels, later made mini-series. All are set in the 1800s, some early in the century, most set in Northumbria. They are universally romantic with a girl, often followed from youth who persists in life against the severe hardships of the day, to find true love.

The final credits of The Tide of Life and The Secret are both accompanied by the following beautiful folk lilt.

Lyrics
I cannot get to my love if I would die (dee)
For the water of Tyne runs between her and me
And here I must stand with a tear in my ‘ee,
Both sighing and sickly, my sweetheart to see.
I cannot get to my love if I would die;
For the waters of Tyne run between her and me
And here I must stand with a tear in my ‘ee,
Both sighing and sickly, my sweetheart to see.
Oh, where is the boatman, my bonny hinney?
Oh, where is the boatman? Bring him to me
To ferry me over the Tyne to my honey
And I will remember the boatman and thee.
Oh, bring me a boatman, I’ll give any money
And you for your trouble rewarded shall be
To ferry me over the Tyne to my honey
Or scull her across the rough river to me

It is a Northumbrian lovesong. Anywhere along the Tyne could claim it, from Hexam, through Newcastle, to Gateshead and Tynemouth. The ferry is believed to be the one caught at Haughton Castle, Hexam, on the North Tyne.

 

Two “should be” Modern Australian Classics….

Ballina Boy by R KA Allen

A child’s odyssey through the 1950’s

I bought this book to give to a dear friend for Christmas…….but have been so immediately entranced with it myself, that I know now she is not getting it, this being Feb 2. I will lend it with my book plate in the front!

It is available in all formats, hardcover, softcover, and ebook. I have the paperback version, and as usual, the tactile and visual elements of the book are meaningful to me. This one is printed in the USA on smooth, pleasing paper. The spine is firm, so I CAN roll it into covenient shapes sitting or lying in bed without any major damage (this facility also produces an additional tactile memory for the book, a specific “well-read” recall). Inside, line-drawings, and the painted cover picture, all by renowned Brisbane maritime artist Don Braben,  and the photograph on the front cover are each entrancing. No doubt, the cover painting represents this Ballina Boy fishing in the Richmond River from the boat jetty; it is alongside a photo of his blond-headed self at about age seven in the left hand lower corner. A rapid flick through the pages reveals that the book is interspersed with the most charming black and white line-drawings, enticingly and deeply redolent of my own childhood. There are family and school photographs in the middle. It is well annotated also, with numerous fascinomas! I find this all so striking, as even these visuals must be only a degree or two of separation from those of anyone who grew up in this part of the world in this era. “While the story is largely set in Ballina and the Northern Rivers, it encompasses Brisbane and Queensland provincial towns including Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Toowoomba and Pittsworth, as well as some international destinations.”

The Author’s current photo is on the back cover, where he is described:

“The son of a country doctor and classicist, Roger Allen inherited his father’s love of medicine and languages. After graduating from the University of Queensland, Roger specialized in chest diseases and sleep medicine in Melbourne, and became a recognized authority on sarcoidosis. H is currently in private practice at the Wesley Medical Centre, Brisbane and he also teaches medical students. Roger’s interests include family, sailing, military history, medical research and writing.”

Within the book, the young Roger’s early life is described in generous warm and affectionate detail,  sharing his family and family life, his halcyon days in Ballina. All the senses are triggered, with visions of boyish excursions, fishing, family travels, bird life…pelicans, azure kingfishers, Regent Bowerbirds, Powerful Owls. Depths of context are offered with his historical family history, local history, sympathetic acknowledgement of contemporary and past local Aboriginal history, and Roger’s youthful questioning of the religion.

This charming book is replete with so many reminders of my own childhood…..Billy Tea, the Hill’s Hoist, the FJHolden, bodgies and widgies, outhouse “dunnies with red backs, huntsmen and daddy longlegs”……..Christmas beetles, the Breakfast Creek Hotel, Crosby Road, Bartley’s Hill, Ascot State School, the gasometer at Newstead, Eagle Farm aerodrome, Lancaster Road, Oriel Park with the old steam roller, the Ascot tram terminus, lead paint, the gas copper, gob-stoppers, Cracker night with Throw Downs and tupenny bungers, Clag paste, yo-yos, Red Rover, hoola-hoops, Iced Vo-vos, White Australia, “Two to the Valley” (I was specifically explained this so-Brisbane-Australian colloquialism with humour by my own father, at a young age!), Tele! Tele! City Final!, McWhirter’s, T.C. Byrne’s and Finney’s, television in 1959, the Australian loss of innocence with the kidnap and murder of Graham Thorne, Sputnik………this book deserves a very wide readership!

 

Ladies in Black

On Saturday, I went with favourite daughter, Jenny, to see the musical, Ladies in Black at QPAC, my Christmas present from she and Nick. I had taken little notice of what we were to see, as the main event was an outing with HER. But what a treat ……..set in Sydney in 1959 in the frock department of Goodes (à la David Jones), with themes relevant today as then, and, what can one say, the music, composed by Tim Finn, brilliant. So happy and uplifting. Again, so many reminders of one’s own youth…..

The original inspiration was a book by an Australian expatriate, Madeleine St John, who was living in London: The Women in Black. It was the first of her four novels, and the only one set in her homeland. She based the story partly on her own experiences, but also those of a friend. Now on my Goodreads: Want to read list!

 

Carolyn Burns, playwright, along with Simon Phillips, director, and Tim Finn, music and lyrics, developed this new Australian musical for Queensland Theatre. It opened with seasons in Brisbane and Melbourne in 2015, and has just started an Australian National Tour. It won the 2016 Helpmann Award for Best New Australian Work.

A lazy lift from Wikipedia re great reviews, follows:

“The musical was very positively received.

The Age called Ladies in Black “a unicorn of the stage: a full-blown, home-grown musical that actually works” and “probably the best Aussie musical since Priscilla went global”. It wrote: “Tim Finn’s songs range from Broadway-inspired big numbers to true-blue ballads, from witty patter songs to shades of blues and jazz standards. They’re beautifully integrated with the dramatic action, and the comic lyrics are priceless.”

The Australian stated that Finn “has approached Ladies in Black with such wholehearted sincerity and creative generosity …creating an immensely engaging score filled with gorgeous melodies that make you care about the characters singing them.”

ArtsHub indicated that “a comedy of mid-20th century manners, Ladies in Black is a paean to an optimistic future – the future of an uncomplicated gender equality and seamless multiculturalism. But Finn’s canny lyricism transports the play from its late 50s context to a subtle but salient comment on social issues of today.”

Well done to all the great creatives involved – there are many, cudos to Brisbane, Queensland Theatre, Australia, and a dab of New Zealnd!

Thanks, Jen!

 

Musing on old and new times and great narratives…….

I think the need to do this must be part of a late mid-life review……!!

Over the years, Mum made it known to me with regularity, that she was re-reading The Forsyte Saga, and indeed, in her last few years… again! (with selected others), “one last time”. She had come to feel so attached to the characters, especially the old Aunts, at the Forsyte ‘Change gatherings, that each reading was like visiting loved and familiar family again.

I must have been late teenage when, in 1968,  the black-and-white Forsyte Saga series came onto TV, probably bargaining permission to watch rather than study. I additionally adored those same characters through film, thought Irene (pronounced Irenie) exquisitely beautiful (the actress also had an exotic name  – Nyree (née Ngairi) Dawn Porter, a New Zealand actress). I have ended up loving both reading Galsworthy’s first trilogy, with its two interludes, and watching the 1967 TV series. Perhaps about 1992, I read The Man of Property aloud to Jen. Also listened to an audiobook version several years ago, while cooking in the kitchen.

Galsworthy’s three books of the Saga are The Man of Property written in 1906, In Chancery, 1920 and To Let, in 1921.

image

image

image

Anne left numerous bits of paper with messages, I am sure, not only for herself, but me also. With the above note left within my copy, I am very clear now, what “In Chancery” really means……”to get into chancery, to get into a hopeless predicament…”

I also came across the two interludes in the 1990s. These copies are both very satisfying as they are very old, with all the sensual embellishment which that brings. I am not sure if they were originally acquired in Mum or Dad’s household, editions being 1934 and 1935 respectively.

Indian Summer of a Forsyte…….it is Old Jolyon’s Indian Summer……aged, alone at Robin Hill (then outside London) with grand-daughter Holly, while Young Jolyon is abroad, unexpected companionship and delight occurs with visits from his nephew Soames’s estranged wife, Irene. As the end of his life approaches, his perception of beauty and love is sharpened. He indulges and basks in the beauty of Irene herself, the home at Robin Hill (built originally for Irene, by Irene’s loathed husband Soames, the Man of Property), and the beautiful surrounds of the countryside. I could almost feel the soft warm stillness of the summer air, perfume of the wildflowers and buzz of bees myself…….so evocative. At the end of the book, Old Jolyon passes away, sitting in his chair under the great old oak tree, waiting for Irene’s arrival (imagine her full Victorian summer dress and umbrella) walking up the road to see him, he feeling so content, with the dog Balthasar at his feet, which faithful devotee alerts us to that passing with his whimper and howl……such a beautiful step aside from the main story. The words “Indian Summer” entered by own lexicon then, understanding them and on occasion using them, always for something spiritually uplifting, special, and late in the season…..I remember an Easter at Straddie which felt like an Indian Summer.

My copy of Indian Summer of a Forsyte, 1934
My copy of Indian Summer of a Forsyte, 1934

The first paragraph...
The first paragraph…

The last paragraph
The last paragraph…

Of course, “The soundless footsteps in the grass!” is Irene arriving to find her unexpected friend had died in his chair awaiting her…..

Awakening was similarly delightful, and which mothers of sons may find secretly dreamy and affirming. It is narrated by little Jon, the son, the truelove child of Irene and Young Jolyon, as he comes to realize how beautiful his mother is (Awakening), and that at once she is his, but also has to be shared, particulary with his father, about which he comes to terms. Irene is a lovely spirit, wafting (I imagine with soft skirt rustling) in and out of his daily life….we see her only as  his mother-presence, not directly, as with her more detailed formed self, in the main story. In spite of his new awareness and anxiety, she is his child’s ultimate comfort and reassurance. Jon, too, basks……

My copy 1935; dust cover in poor condition! The rest is in brilliant condition!
My copy 1935; dust cover in poor condition! The rest is in brilliant condition!

Lovely gilt embossing on the cover...dear little Jon...
Lovely gilt embossing on the cover…dear little Jon…

image

 

Profile of little Jon coming down the stairs....
Profile of little Jon coming down the stairs….

The first paragragh.....
The first paragragh…..

Analysis of little Jon’s mind, by The Public Analyst…

I love it that “Sentiment” only gets allotted half  point nearly at the bottom, the rest being high adventure. How little boy!❤️

We are drawn deeply into Jon's imagination by R.H. Sauter's wonderful illustrations
We are drawn deeply into Jon’s imagination by R.H. Sauter’s wonderful illustrations

The last paragragh....Every word is beauteous!
The last paragragh….Every word is beauteous!

 

This illustration says it all....
This illustration says it all….

The anatomy of Jon’s heart has changed forever……that which was a vacant plot has now been entirely filled by “Mum”. One notes that this is just marginally larger than the plot for Dad, which has been assigned of old.

Having now re-seen a lot of film which, somehow, in spite of an excessive focus on study and education in early years, I did manage to absorb…..I realize now that the stories’ characters have become my old friends. It brings the realization that film and books have been very important to me, unconsciously back then, with re-viewing and re-reading now bringing nostalgia, even aspects of grief, for the old days, for absent family and similarly for the absence of the characters when the book is finished or film ‘glut’ is over.